The Format – Snails (CD)

The Format makes another strong step forward with the first track on this EP, “Janet”. The similarities to Rivers Cuomo and New Radicals are coupled with a solid bass line and a jangly guitar that will make residence in a listener’s brain for weeks. The inclusion of a synthesizer really imbues the track with a fullness that is unrivaled; everything just bursts in one’s ears, just like The Rocket Summer, and yet The Format’s wizened hand makes sure that the track is not too busy. In fact, The Format may just be to the mid-2000s what bands like Dishwalla and Blues Traveler were like to the mid-1990s; solid, well-played and catchy music that will bolster even in its most dejected moments. “Snails”, the eponymous track on the disc starts off slowly (perhaps intentional, how better to start off a track titled after some of the slowest creatures) and largely is fueled by the chunky, plodding bass that is present on the track. The increased presence of slide guitars and vocal volume make for a nice doubling and a track, low-key as it might be really draws at one’s heartstrings.

The longer run-time of “Snails” may seem intimidating to some, but the beautiful vocals of Nate really make for a quickly-ending tracks. The three re-treats of tracks on the EP (including acoustic versions of “Wait Wait Wait”, “Tune Out”, and “On Your Porch” really continue well with the previous fare on the disc. In fact, the acoustic version of “Wait Wait Wait” has an ideological and aural predecessor in “Snails”, even down to the exaggerated loudness of Nate. “Wait Wait Wait” seems almost too bare, almost as if some instruments, perhaps something like a violine or the slide present on the previous track, should be at the periphery. Still, the acoustic treatment of these tracks provides wonderful nods to continuity and allowances for Nate’s rich vocals to really shine even more so than on “Interventions and Lullabies”.

The inclusion of this disc when individuals buy “Interventions and Lullabies” really allow for the listeners to see two distinct sides of the band, sides that are both equally strong. The acoustic focus of this EP, coupled with masterful engineering and mixing really make this worth the exorbitant prices typical of EPs. “Snails” also provides a nice bridge to differing possibilities for The Format’s new full-length. The strength of “Snails” will only increase demand and a fanbase; this is surprisingly well-done.

Top Track: Wait Wait Wait

Rating: 7.3/10

The Format – Snails / 2005 Atlantic / 5 Tracks / http://www.theformat.com / http://www.atlanticrecords.com / Reviewed 18 April 2005

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