Five years after their flirtation with major labels came and went with the release of 2000's King James Version
, Seattle punk-popsters Harvey Danger
return to active duty with a few new musical wrinkles but all their smarts (and hooks) intact on their fourth album, Little by Little...
. While Harvey Danger
still display a healthy amount of energy on these ten tunes, their emphasis has shifted a bit as the arrangements lean less on guitars and more on keyboards, with less punk and more classic pop structures in the formula. The piano-dominated melodies of "Little Round Mirrors" and "Moral Centralia" are clean and satisfying with just the right amount of bite around the edges, and "Happiness Writes White" sounds like the work of a post-millennial version of the Merry-Go-Round
, while Sean Nelson
's firm but flexible tenor is well suited to the new material. Producers Steve Fisk
and John Goodmanson
have just the right handle on this music, giving the tunes just the right amount of gloss without letting this stuff get too slick, and the band responded well to their treatment. And thankfully, the guys haven't forgotten how to rock out, either, with "Cream and Bastards Rise" strutting its stuff with just the right amount of bile, and the acoustic but nervy "Cool James" takes on its targets with a liberating anger and passion. Left to their own devices, Harvey Danger
have made a smart and compelling pop album that proves they have plenty of life (and talent) left in 'em; this is as good an album as the bandmembers have ever made, and that "new musical direction" has thankfully taken them someplace worth visiting.