The Cricket Rumor Mill – Renderings

The first false assumption about egg-headed Chicago instrumental rock is that it is in some way more intelligent, innovative, or artistic than other forms of indie-rock or unpopular pop. The fact that the band members are either incapable of writing lyrics or too afraid to try to sing them does not constitute grounds for aesthetic respectability or musical asceticism. Likewise, the conscious decision to avoid words fails, in and of itself, to make a band either more intriguing or more intelligent. Egg-headed instrumental rock, much like every codified and regimented sub-sub-genre of post-R’n’B stylings, is simultaneously defined and confined by a set of codes and conceptions that inform most every aspect of the product’s construction. In other words, overly musical instrumental rock can be as uninspired and derivative as any other form of music today.
The second false assumption about egg-headed Chicago instrumental rock is that it is some way better for you or more respectable than other forms of indie-rock or unpopular pop. This same argument can also be made about free-jazz and experimental rock, but with the crucial difference that much of the music in those two sub-sub-genres is actually entertaining or enjoyable. Just as listening to Chicago instrumental rock does not make you smarter, it also does not make you more refined, mature, discriminating, or respectable. It generally does reflect pretension and uptightness, however, and the occasional inability to cut loose and have a good time.
The Cricket Rumor Mill performs a particularly vexing strand of egg-headed Chicago instrumental rock. They are more straightforward and melodic than the granddaddy of them all, Tortoise, which is a sort of mixed blessing. The Mill do not set its sights as high as Tortoise, and in doing so they neither reach that group’s sporadically impressive heights, nor do they ever flame out quite as dramatically and disappointingly in a blaze of self-impressed musical donnishness. The Mill are content to craft traditional rock songs that more often than not proffer little more than a couple pleasant melodies and an ambiance of mellow ambivalence. Opening song “Frisbee” lolls about nicely enough, but as is the case with the album in general, it stays around a bit too long. “Give Me a Day (or Two)” follows that up with another nicely decked out tune that ends well after it should. These two songs have a nice ethereal quality with some well-played guitar lines and interesting percussive elements; if they were a couple minutes shorter, or if they had vocals to make the music less repetitive, they would be truly good songs.
The closest thing Renderings has to a truly good song is the track “Sonic Frito”. This is a nice one, adequately restrained and brief and with a pleasing keyboard melody. If the Cricket Rumor Mill had gone more in this direction, then Rendering would perhaps be an entertaining record. As it stands, however, it is effectively the indie-rock version of that flavorless smooth-jazz music that makes jazz aficionados cringe. Renderings is full of that sort of bland, directionless, soulless, and unmotivated non-music that bores the living daylights out of those who look for passion and fire in their listening material.