REVIEW: Plastic Houses - "The Best of Plastic Houses" Volumes 1 & 2

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

I wouldn't suggest this newly remastered collection of New Jersey's Plastic Houses to anyone but the most hardcore garage-indie rock and shoegazer fan. As a matter of fact, some of the songs can be considered underdeveloped, rhythmically off and even off-key at times. But what is special about this two-CD Plastic Houses release is what it stands for - a collection of works that showcases the musical travels of Christopher Eissing (Cinnamon Drafthouse, Whirl, x-Static Urge) from the beginning of his musical career.

Ballsy indeed as a release and I'm sure some of the earlier tracks from Volume 1 left PH wondering if it was a wise choice to release again (I can personally understand such trepidation since I decided to include the horrible, in my opinion, earlier issues of Legends Magazine as part of my website). Therefore I can see where Chris is coming from on a personal level. The Best of Plastic Houses Volumes 1 & 2 transcends mere music to become a cult classic in the world of indie sub-pop as it, in a way, shows the "growing up" of not only the music, but the man.

Volume 1 shows Plastic Houses' work from 1985 to 1990 - high school into adulthood for the band's core member. The start is weak, but the determination is apparent. Pictures runs a little flat. Some clashing bass lines detract from the track. Underpar recording also, which while expected does tend to make this track dissapoint even more. Very sloppy, but surely a beginning of something. Hold Me is not much later than Pictures in the Plastic Houses timeline, but an immense improvement has already begun. Wishes falls back again to the sloppier style, but has the make-up to be an excellent song if Chris would take a mind to re-record the track in his wiser current state of mind and age.

Volume 2 of course moves further along the Plastic Houses lifeline and covers the years 1991-1998. If You Were Here is poised to be a synth-pop classic…if not again for the subpar production. Much of the otherwise-well written keyboard lines is washed out. However, you'll note Eissing's vocals here - finally beginning to come of their own and sounding like the work we might know of from him today.

In 22 PH mixes around with rhythms with some interesting results. Meanwhile it seems the production has stepped up a notch…or at least the vocals were given an almost perfect level of pick up. Just a tad of feedback on the singing gives 22 a nice touch against the heavy brush-highhat drums. You can definitely hear some major improvement in instrument playing over Volume 1 pieces at this point. Meanwhile Fly Away is just a flat out poppy rocker with infectious grooves and bopping basslines. Utterly blows away earlier work and one of my favorites from the band's entire catalog. With Me Now - another good 'un. Similar in grooviness to Fly Away. Then there's Waiting (Through the Silence). Chris, man, what the fuck were you thinking on this one? Obviously a dissonance attempt, but I can do completely without this track - sorry.

Why the fuck is Silent Obsession eight minutes long? Oh yeah…because it's a great song. The bass line alone, while minimal, is great. - I can appreciate it as a bassist myself (ok…it was in a past life (translation: pre-marriage)). Chris' vocals are brooding, bass-laden and breathy. He's not speaking to us - we're just here and he's speaking to his own personal demons. And that makes Silent Obsession a great song with meaning, introspection and helps step away from the poppiness just in case Fly Away layered on the bopping too thickly for some.

It's obvious that I enjoy the Volume 2 work moreso than Volume 1. But then again, I also enjoy Legends #100+ moreso than Legends #75-. If you synthpop/indie fans out there are able to purchase Volume 2 without the first, do so (Mean Little Music will offer it outside a box set if requested). I will be keeping both - because through The Best of Plastic Houses Volume 1 & 2 I can not only follow the life and grwth of one of my favorite musicians…but also of one of my best friends.

Contact Information:
E-Mail: plastishouses@meanlittleman.com
Web: http://plastichouses.meanlittleman.com/

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