If I had to compare it to anything, “CELL-O-PHANE” plays like “The Velvet Underground Live on Batibot” (not a real thing, but it would have been amazing), its sunny disposition belying a sense of loneliness.
A Modest Proposal opens the album quietly before breaking into a full-on rock kiss-off, then switching again in the mid-section to a cacophonous mix of spoken dialogue over persistent guitars.
On Manila’s a Trap, Mariah muses on a troublesome significant other in EDSA traffic, singing, “So many streets and only one of me; we’re drowning in a big city and there’s only one of me.”
The band’s at its best when it fleshes out the finer points teenage heartache. All the elements, from production to vocals to lyrics, come together so elegantly on a song like Lucid Sister that, by the time the refrain comes (“Stop crying and put down your guitar”), a gentle melancholy just rushes over you.
Homages to their idols abound on the LP, from the shout-outs to The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed in A Modest Proposal and Lou’s Coffee Shop to the subtle nod to Mac DeMarco in Howard’s Favourite Song.
“CELL-O-PHANE” has the completeness of a proper album, with a well-constructed tracklist that offers both a diverse range of moods and an underlying cadence throughout its 37-minute runtime. There’s a profound willingness to experiment on the album. It’s playful to the end, so you never feel that it overstays its welcome. Every song tells its story succinctly, with the occasional indulgence of a long guitar solo.
The only thing someone might find lacking here is a sense of the band going beyond its influences. There’s a voice there, albeit one that isn’t fully formed just yet. All things considered, though, “CELL-O-PHANE” makes for an admirable debut for The Buildings.
It’s a celebration of youth, an homage to the band’s bands, told with a precocious, if nascent voice. Maybe a second album will see The Buildings develop its voice further, but for now, we’re not complaining too much.
Listen to: Lucid Sister, The Doom Squad and Manila’s a Trap