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Boomkat Product Review:
Stephin Merritt and co. return with a beautiful new album, inspired chiefly by the production style of the Jesus And Mary Chain's Psychocandy and the Beach Boys' surf rock era. That statement, while a fair evaluation of the general aesthetic, glosses over Merritt's incredible songwriting talent, which shines particularly brightly across Distortion's thirteen tracks, each one a deft pop sucker punch. There really isn't much in the way of misfiring on this record: from the introductory exuberance of 'Three-way' to the blissful pop misanthropy of 'California Girls', the album starts as it means to go on. Merritt's legend as a songwriter has grown to the point where he's a bit of an American institution, and Distortion seems sure to compound that. Even when he isn't singing his own songs he's still a force to be reckoned with. Shirley Simms takes over vocal duties for the splendid pop cacophony 'Drive On, Driver', with its shimmering strings and keys buried in a texture-laden feedback loop. Straddling the divide between that Jim & William Reid guitar sound and Phil Spector's girl group productions of the sixties is 'Too Drunk To Dream', which although steeped in a certain amount of nihilism and darkness is about as ear-friendly as pop music gets. And that's despite the fact that the feedback constantly threatens to devour the entire mix. Buried in there somewhere, you'll also hear accordion from author Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket himself) with whom Merritt performs under the name The Gothic Archies, a band whose central preoccupation is scoring audiobooks for children. That's just one of several side projects this man has on the go, but however thinly he might spread himself, Merritt's achieved something truly special with Distortion, an album of noisy, rough, imperfect pop music that's going to be lodged in your head - and your hi-fi - for the foreseeable future.