Barmitzvah Brothers The Century of Invention

The Barmitzvah Brothers (who are not actually brothers, nor Jewish) always seemed to come from a reverse Village of the Damned — an idyllic rural place, where every child is mysteriously born with an intuitive understanding of makeshift musical production and shares idiosyncrasies in common. The "children” are growing up; this is their third album, and though a bit inconsistent, it charts the band's maturity. The Century of Invention starts out like the score to the town picnic: the band get into hoe-down territory, plunking their banjos, bending their guitar licks, fiddling their fiddles and hooting as though they were twirling their partners through a line dance. Enter a smattering of organ-driven, happy-go-lucky outsider pop, exemplified by the tracks "El Ranchito,” which could come from the best of the basement sessions, and "Powerlines,” which has a familiar indie rock trumpet line and waltzes along at a doo-wop pace. Then come the ballads, but luckily the Brothers are as poetic as their small-town earnestness will allow, and the best of them sound as poignant as (Permafrost label-mate) Thanksgiving, albeit fronted by the indie rock Shirley Temple (aka Jenny Mitchell). The band’s songwriting abilities are at times marred by their faithfully lo-fi approach, but shining moments such as "Summer Song,” "Wake Up” and "New Orleans” are proof that the coyness that seems fundamental to the Barmitzvah Brothers’ existence can be refined, and hence much easier to take seriously. The Brothers are good, and at their best, they are charming, too. (Permafrost)