As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. With any luck, the majority of local music fans have been introduced to Burlington’s In Memory of Pluto in person, and not via their lackluster self-titled debut EP. Released earlier this year, the disc represented, or rather misrepresented, the band as a milquetoast specter of their dynamic live act. With Cutting Open the Fiction, the indie-rock quintet aims to bury any memory of that ill-fated first attempt. The result is a 22-minute full-frontal assault of pop-punk fury that lays waste to any lingering doubts about this band’s immense potential.
A number of the disc’s seven songs are mulligans from the EP-that-shall-not-be-named. This is true of the opening cut, “Berlin,” which, to paraphrase Nuke LaLoosh, announces the band’s presence with authority. The disc was recorded under the watchful eye (ear?) of Romans’ Justin Gonyea at Wasted City Studios. And from the outset the improvement in sound quality is — blessedly — startling. When the full band jumps in following a synth-y intro, it’s hard not to give a little “fuck yeah!” fist pump.
“A Century in the Dust” typifies one of IMOP’s finer qualities: agility. Without sacrificing the punch of their arrangements, guitarists Bill Jandl and John Flanagan unfurl blazing-yet-intricate counter melodies. But where this degree of guitar interplay might weigh down inferior outfits — often to the point of noodling distraction — the performance here is bright, clean and engaging, particularly balanced with the metronomic precision of bassist Zach Jandl and drummer Ryan McGrath.
Wholly rebuffed, the title cut simply glistens. The song was the lone bright spot on the band’s debut. But even that incarnation pales in comparison to the factory-fresh version found here. Vocalist Seth Gallant more resembles the hypnotizing firebrand he is onstage than the overwrought whelp portrayed on the earlier EP. To be sure, there is no shortage of angst-ridden melodrama. But that’s part of the fun and, ’round these parts, few do it better than Gallant. But here as throughout most of the disc, the histrionics are kept to a minimum in favor of a tasteful, but nonetheless forceful, delivery.
In Memory of Pluto are still at their best live — find out for yourself Thursday, December 4, at The Monkey House. But Cutting Open the Fiction goes a long way toward closing that gap and finally gives the band a fitting recorded companion.