Occasionally psychedelic and unabashedly noisy garage-rockers Sic Alps have grown a lot over just a smattering of singles (and one proper LP, 2006's Pleasures and Treasures), so the reverse-chronological order of this compilation puts their best foot forward. That said, it'll rob listeners of some insight into the band if they don't give the whole thing their attention instead of just jamming the "Back" button over and over after "Strawberry Guillotine" (though you could hardly be blamed). Like many of their peers, Sic Alps tend to press great material on vinyl and cassette singles in haltingly small runs, but thankfully, most of it is included here.
The band's most recent material is their best and strangest. "Description of the Harbor" comes from an extended 12" of the same name originally released last year, and it's a liberal seven-minute interpretation of a Strapping Fieldhands song that alternates between depth-charge distortion, atonal no-wave jamming, and plaintive piano-led vocals that could be coming from a basement church P.A. Yet the entire B-side of that single was filled with nothing but direct, concise, even innocent pop: "Love Is Strange" finds austerity in the hangover of "Description" via acoustic guitars and woodblocks, "A Story Over There", "The News Today", "Message From the Law", and "Hey! Sofia" are simply too immediate to be dismissed as Nuggets-minded retro retreads.
"Strawberry Guillotine", the title track of another single from last year, is a slow and hiss-soaked proto-metal strut that manages to be damnably infectious.. To further reinforce their unpredictability, "RATROQ" from the same release sounds like running the volume knob back and forth with woodwind accompaniment, while "The Drake" is another perfectly catchy, impossibly heavy ditty where the accidental harmonics make it sound like the notes are punching black holes out of the space around them.
The 2006 Teenage Alps cassette marked something new for the band-- still undoubtedly minimal and noisy, but inching towards being more melodic, or, alternatively, having more of a purpose when being decidedly un-melodic. "When You Tell It" is a perfect example, taking otherwise straightforward psychedelic pop and adding a head-swallowing feedback screech where a solo should go, while "Texas (Is the Right State)" puts the rubbery bass of vintage stoner-rock more firmly in their grasp. "C'mon Pup" meshes a perky, almost Disney-appropriate piano plink over indiscernible waves of distortion."Making Plans" from 2006 is more typical languid bottom-heavy riffery, though even on this early single, the casual approach to recording and the distant, disconnected way the drums were recorded put Sic Alps some distance from your average long-haired slow-headbang rock. They've tried many things over these releases, and they've always come out a little left of the mark in the best way, making for something distinctive. Long Way Around walks backwards through their firmly weird current aesthetic to the still-weird two-man psychedelic sludge-rock where they began. It's an indispensable collection for those without the time or cash to track down these out-of-print singles, and for now, the best starting point for the band. Jason Crock (Pitchfork) ~~~~~~