Velocity of Sound (SpinArt)

Apples in Stereo 

Velocity of Sound (SpinArt)

Over the years, the Elephant 6 collective has become a highly droppable name among the indie-rock intelligentsia. So drop-friendly, in fact, that the musical alliance showed up in last fall's Vanity Fair "Rock Snob's Dictionary," described thusly: "Loose collection of interrelated neo-psychedelic bands with power-pop leanings, anchored by the Apples in Stereo and their leader, Robert Schneider. Apparent requirements for Elephant 6 membership are a retro-baroque band name (Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Dixie Blood Mustache, Ladybug Transistor), a willingness to share band members and a grad-studentish indifference to personal appearance."

But despite the Apples' cultlike status, the group's members have never produced a particularly noteworthy album. In the past, the band has drawn criticism for its uncanny resemblance to orchestrally minded pop groups, especially the Beatles and the Beach Boys. On Velocity, the quartet leaves much of its trippy vibe behind, favoring faster, fuzzier guitars. It wouldn't be a Schneider-touched work without some warmly familiar nods to psychedelia, but the Apples' pop numbers lack emotional pull and innovative inspiration. The Elephant 6 collective's devotion to eclectic music making might be admirable, but Velocity of Sound suggests Schneider and company draw more interest for their affiliations than for actual musical merit. Perhaps the rock snobs have their noses in the air for all the wrong reasons.

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