There’s something about the four tunes on the Strange Behavior EP that strike me as slightly off-kilter and off-the-mark. I count myself a fan of the disparate influences at play with the music of Restorations, but I’m not sure the band ever really connects the dots between them. The bulk of the vocals are of the gruff, punk, Chuck Ragan/Hot Water Music variety, but they don’t always coincide with the melancholy, Old ‘97s style of alt-country like you think they would. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it’s because the songs never really pick up any energy or steam to match the big emotions on display. It’s a damn shame because I really wanted to like this record (especially because it arrived on my doorstep as an electric blue 12”).
“Title Track” proves to be a strong opener, complete with solid guitars, shuffling drums, and a rumbling, rambling troubadour feel to lyrics like “And you could feel it in the fog / the death of the longest fall / such strange, strange behavior / to be here at all.” With “Linear Notes,” we hear the lone example of the sort of volume and intensity this group can create: the sound is larger, the mid-tempo pacing almost reaches a good rock feel, and the group displays a good feel for dynamics. This song is easily my favorite, if only for the following line: “I’ve been spinning these circles / just looking for the answers / but the answers don’t speak up / with the questions so loud.”
The record loses steam for me on the second half, especially with the tepid ballad that is “The Reappearing American Hobo.” The music is rather stale, and the lyrics don’t quite make sense, as it recalls a conversation with a woman who seems to be homeless, but the singer can’t connect with her because he admits that he doesn’t like Kerouac. “Documents” brings the project back up to par, complete with stirring country-rock guitar work and greater attention paid to the developing the dynamics of the song. I also dig how the ominous lyrics personify a city that’s crumbling, but it can’t figure out how to rebuild (even if it could).
Inevitably, the Strange Behavior EP comes across as bits and pieces of a full-length concept record that hasn’t quite been fully developed. The characters presented in the lyrics have potential, but they’re never allowed the room necessary to grow properly, leaving everything feeling stunted. I do want to hear more from Restorations, if only because the band has some rather good ideas that I want to see flourish in the right environment.