It's not as catchy as Tripping Daisy or as freewheeling as The Polyphonic Spree, but persistent eccentric Tim DeLaughter's new project Preteen Zenith still relies on high-pitched vocals layered over blown-out symphonic pop. That seems to be a trope he can't (or won't) escape, for better and worse. While DeLaughter neophytes may treat this comparatively subdued outing as an entry into his oeuvre, longtime fans might quickly find themselves reverting to old favorites.
Among the unconverted, fans of The Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals may take most easily to Rubble Guts & BB Eye's introspective take on outsider pop, which, despite being performed by a full band (Preteen Zenith's live debut last summer featured a six-member lineup), feels more personal than DeLaughter's previous work. There are few mentions of I and me in the lyrics, but there's also scant artifice along the lines of affected weirdness (Tripping Daisy) or two-dozen-member symphonic ensembles (The Polyphonic Spree). In fact, the first track, "Breathe," opens like a home demo: the singer picking his guitar alone, raw and raspy. DeLaughter's voice is modulated upward so he sounds as tiny as a bug, yet still himself.
Unexpectedly, Rubble Guts & BB Eye is also rife with dynamism; it ebbs and flows like an Explosions in the Sky record, with guitars, strings, keyboards, drums, and voices swelling and shrinking and swelling: an emotional rollercoaster in every track. At two and a half minutes, "Breathe" goes full throttle — Breathe like you and me! — then downshifts to a parting drumbeat. "Relief" opens with a restrained Arcade Fire stomp, then bulges with an ecstatic middle section, then restricts. "Overcome" moves from instrumental to march to ballad, elements that complement one another much as Rubble Guts fits neatly within DeLaughter's maturing body of work. (Good Records Recordings)