(Golden Sound Records)
What do you get when you toss yelping punk-lite vocals on top of sparse, surf-rock instrumentation? Something that oddly resembles a more electric Violent Femmes, it turns out — at least in the case of Party Line, the second EP from local trio the Empty Spaces. The record (recorded live in the band's rehearsal space and accordingly loose and ramshackle) opens with a "Wipeout"-style instrumental jangler. From there, singer Mat Shoare's voice insinuates itself into the center of the mix. That's good because the songs themselves, which tend to be constructed from well-worn chord progressions, aren't generally compelling enough to keep you engaged. Shoare is, though. He favors first-person narratives that reveal his punch-drunk desires: "to be a successful bank teller"; "to date a girl with a beehive hairdo"; "to be part of that crowd, the crowd that people talk about"; and "to fuck the fat girl from the B-52s." In my eyes, that last line justifies the existence of this entire album, and there are a couple of others on par with it, suggesting that Shoare is onto something as a frontman.