Exchanging Gifts, the debut CD from unsigned indie band Elder
Statesmen, is the sort of album I'd have put into heavy rotation back
in my college DJing days. The band is most often compared to Jesus
Lizard, but there's much more going on here than that. The easiest
thematic comparison is probably to Modest Mouse's more discordant
(yet still melodic) offerings, yet repeated listenings here offer up
many more worthy comparisons; influences as varied as King Crimson,
Primus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, XTC and Jane's Addiction come
through clearer and clearer the more you sink your teeth into this
meaty piece of music.
The first two tracks on the CD -- "Mr. Quill" and "Single Spark" --
are probably most indicative of the band's overall sound, offering up
numerous time changes, vocals that often drift into the "falsetto"
range, and staccato rhythms which border on unpredictable. More
listener friendly are tracks like the melodic "Echo Man" (which will
undoubtedly be found mislabeled as a Foo Fighters song on Kazaa
someday) and "[delirium]", which is far, far too short (at 2:32) to
do justice to what has to be the closest thing to Saigon Kick's
The Lizard since the real thing. Compare that to album closer,
"Miles Away", which at over seven minutes is practically epic; the
song starts with a low build of cymbals and guitar before giving way
to a lush soundscape replete with fuzzy vocals and guitars
reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins at their moodiest.