In the summer of 2006, the International Astronomical Union unceremoniously stripped Pluto of its planetary status, demoting it to the sniggle-inducing subcategory of "dwarf planet." Those were dark days in the Milky Way, indeed. Roughly one year later, a quintet of presumably disillusioned St. Mike's students came together to honor the passing of one of our solar system's greats the only way they knew how: with hard rockin'. So it was that In Memory of Pluto was born.
With their self-titled debut EP, IMOP have attempted to capture the infectious energy of the high-voltage live performances that earned the band a soft spot in the collective heart of local pop-punk and indie-rock fans. But translating that frenetic immediacy to a little plastic disc is no small feat. Though it's not for lack of ability, the band's freshman studio offering falls flat, failing to impart the same vivacity fans have come to expect from their raucous live show.
The exception to the rule is the opening track, "Cutting Open the Fiction" (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN). It's a fitting starting point and showcases the band's undeniable ability to unleash poppy-as-fuck melodic angst over turn-on-a-dime changes and rhythmic patterns. It's a signature cut. It's also the most cleanly produced of the four songs offered.
"Set the House on Fire," which follows, is emblematic of the EP's larger issues. While there is no shortage of the aforementioned sonic highjinks, the band's delivery as a whole seems rigid and forced, lacking the fluidity of their live show. In particular, front man Seth Gallant's vocal performance borders on the histrionic and suffers from frequently sliding pitch.
Further compounding the issues, the track — and, sadly, the disc in general — is poorly mixed, almost to the point of distraction. Bassist Zack Jandl and drummer Ryan McGrath, who arguably serve jointly as the band's lynchpin, exist largely in the shadows behind Bill Jandl and John Flanagan's wall of unbalanced dueling guitars. Similarly, Gallant's vocals are often frustratingly set too far back in the mix. It's a shame, since the material is largely first-rate. But the listener has to work to appreciate it.
Depending on your musical world view, you may feel In Memory of Pluto's EP misrepresents the band as either a muscular Jimmy Eat World or a malnourished Modest Mouse. Given the band's obvious talent and deservedly growing reputation for blistering live performances, it's an unfortunate result.
In Memory of Pluto is one of the area's most exciting live acts — and, quite simply, they deserve a better recorded representation. This Friday, catch them in their element as the band releases its new disc at The Monkey House.
AUDIO: Listen to "Cutting Open The Fiction"