Two Koreas Altruists

Altruists is the second album by the Two Koreas, a band that seem to be known best in Toronto as being "the critics’ band” — three of the five members are writers for a prominent Toronto weekly. Judging by this record, though, it appears that music critics may be able to write a decent rock song or two after all. Casual listeners may be tempted to compare Altruists to the work of the Fall, but this is only marginally appropriate, as most of the similarities can be attributed to singer Stuart Berman’s uncanny channelling of Mark E. Smith’s disaffected speak-shout. No, this bunch aren’t as cerebral and they rock harder, conceivably raiding the poppier end of Sonic Youth’s spectrum for inspiration in the process. Songs like "Nostalgia for Vietnam Nostalgia,” which pursues an infectious Farfisa line into a raucous cacophony, and "Bad Captains,” where obscured "singability” is embedded in brooding post-punk, are proof of the heights the group are capable of reaching. So it is only somewhat disheartening to encounter a couple of slip-ups — to wit, the faux cock rock of "Still Drinking With Estonians” or the awkward lyricism of "Steely Can.” Still, on Altruists, the Two Koreas have at least acquitted themselves well enough to deserve the riddance of that gimmicky "critics’ band” tag. (Unfamiliar)