After an enjoyable debut EP, They Shoot Horses Don't They updated their sound nicely on the gloriously shambling Boo Hoo Hoo Boo last year, kicking out a batch of twisted carny rock stomps that begged to be hooted and hollered along with. Pick Up Sticks is the second full length album from the group, and arriving just over a year after their first disc, it's hard to find a lot that really distinguishes the two.
And really, that's fine. There are a heck of a lot of bands who create similar-sounding albums over the course of their careers. Other than one track on the release, though (the somewhat restrained "What Is That?"), the songs on Pick Up Sticks follow an almost annoyingly-similar pattern. In most cases, the large group (eight members including three horn players and two saxophonists) veer wildly between straight-up rock and freakouts, with only a few quiet reprises scattered in between (an acoustic guitar section here and there). Lead singer Nut Brown, whose rough voice is a bit of an acquired taste anyway, rarely goes below a barely-restrained yelp (except on the aforementioned track), and while he sometimes has a slew of bandmembers backing him up (the chanting choir effect works pretty well sometimes), it simply gets a bit old after awhile.
Musically, the album is entertaining at times, with a bit more of a reliance on analogue synths this time around (and a couple moments that sound like the more rollicking moments of Wolf Parade). In other places, the lurching tracks sound like Tom Waits backing music if he'd hired a couple more horn players and decided to back up a flying trapeze act or a juggler of chainsaws. In the end, this ten song, forty-mintue album is simply kind of a chore to listen to.