Live in Japan (K)

The Microphones 

Live in Japan (K)

Ticket-clutching Microphones fans anticipating an assaultive live show full of the clattering drums, lightning-bolt electric guitars and coed harmonies found on record are often surprised to be greeted only by head Microphone Phil Elvrum with little more than an acoustic guitar to keep him company. Stripped of Elvrum's nylon-string maelstrom, we're left with his unsteady voice, constellations of bum notes and watered-down versions of album favorites. Surely a live Microphones record would be the stuff of swirled pink-and-black vinyl pressed in a limited edition of 500, yes? Available only to fan-club members and rabid Ebay fetishists, right? Not quite. The good news is that every song on Live in Japan is new to Elvrum's catalog. The bad news is that this is by far the least engaging thing he's ever released. From the grating, precocious, a cappella versions of "Silent Night" and "My Favorite Things" to the breathtakingly disposable "I Have Been Told That My Skin Is Exceptionally Smooth," Live in Japan is painful to think about, let alone listen to. And yet "After N. Young," as brief as it is, tastes too sweet to be left behind, and "We Squirm" justifies the idea of love as prison: We're stuck in the muck of our hearts/And the fear that we'll find these feelings of ours start to feel like bars/So we squirm. Too bad the bulk of Live in Japan elicits that exact reaction.

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