I guess it had to happen sooner or later. That squeaky-clean group Looper that we'd all come to know and love has indeed turned to the dark side and listening to the results is like catching your younger sibling looking at dirty magazines. You may stammer a bit and wonder what to say, you may find yourself a little confused, and you may be a little bit angry for them breaking the mold you'd created in your mind. While they haven't gone death metal or anything like that, The Snare definitely branches off into completely different areas for the group.
You'll notice the difference straight-away, as the album starts with an almost Eastern-sounding dulcimer melody before a chunky beat and some saxophone skronks create a rhythm section. Instead of the upbeat, electronic pop music that the group so deliciously created on Up A Tree and The Geometrid, the track sounds a lot closer to certain trip-hop offerings that have come out recently. The vocals of Stuart David are double-tracked and a bit lower than normal, adding to the musky atmosphere. Unfortunately, the track runs almost 6 minutes, and simply rambles on too long in repeating the same sounds over and over again.
As evident by the first track on the disc, Looper is still the best when keeping to the shorter, pop-length tracks, and they settle into more of a groove with a good batch of tracks (that comprise some of the best material on the disc) through the middle of the release. "Driving Myself Crazy" moves along with a stuttering beat and some nice organs and vibes, while "Lover's Leap" adds the dusty twang of a guitar for that smokey-lounge feel. The closest the group comes to their older sound is actually on the album closer of "Fucking Around," in which a trumpet breaks through all the grey haze of the previous tracks, the thick beats drop out, and Stuart David sings in more of is usual light tone. Lyrically and musically, the track hints that the album may be a well-orchestrated joke to throw people off and see if anyone gets their panties in too much of a bunch. With the CD acting as sort of a musical counterpart to the book that David also recently wrote, it may indeed be sort of a strange conceptual diversion for the group.
As on their older releases, the group mainly relies on the layering of simple melodies to sink the hooks in, but because the album takes on a darker edge, things are nearly as hummable as in the past. While I've got to give them credit for not taking the easy route and pumping out another light, summery affair (just in time for summer), The Snare works well at moments and at other times feels like a rather tepid trip-hop release from a band still developing their sound. Like the line in the album-titled track, "I knew this was comin'/there's no sense in runnin," I really didn't expect Looper to keep creating variations on the same album over and over again, but here's hoping they gel a little more on their next disc.