August 30, 2002

Guided by Voices "Earthquake Glue"

I have to open this review with a disclaimer: Guided by Voices is my
favorite band in the entire universe. After the Beatles gave me the desire to make rock music, GBV gave me the drive to follow through on this desire through any available means. Listening to their 1993 masterwork Bee Thousand opened me up to a new world of do-it-yourself home recording, and it is one of the main reasons that I am the person I am today. I own all of GBVís official releases. I have seen them live at least once in every one of its incarnations from the so-called ìclassic lineupî (with Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell) onward, forming a total of almost twenty shows. The members of the current lineup have seen me front and center at their Texas shows so many times that they know me by my first and last name. GBV guru Robert Pollard has even given me the affectionate nickname ìUrkelî because Iím a smart black guy who wears glasses. Because of all of this, the fact that Iím able to compose a review of this album with slightly more objectivity than it would take to simply say ìTHIS ALBUM PISSES ON EVERYTHING THATíS BEEN RELEASED THIS YEAR, SO BUY IT NOW OR I WILL SEND NINJAS TO YOUR HOUSEî is nothing short of a miracle.

Here we are, though, with Earthquake Glue, this yearís entry in the rock and roll sweepstakes. Every year, we can expect GBV to give us a series of songs with quirky titles, lyrics that initially sound nonsensical but reveal deeper meaning after close study, and Pollardís British Invasion vocals turning these lyrics into indelible melodic hooks. This album is no exception, but it is among a rare breed of GBV albums that demonstrate a surprising consistency from start to finish. The first three and the last two songs are Earthquake Glueís strangest. Opener ìMy Kind of Soldierî recalls Seamonsters-era Wedding Present due to its dense wall of guitars and Steve Albiniís trademark gunshot snare sound. A last-minute addition, itís the only song on this album that Albini worked on, which is a shame. He did good work for them on 1996ís Under the Bushes Under the Stars, and it would be nice for them to do an entire album under his wing. The second song, ìMy Son, My Secretary, and My Countryî begins with a horn fanfare from a middle-school band, and serves as little more than a short acoustic climax designed to set the stage for the next song. ìIíll Replace You with Machinesî bursts in with a gurgling noise that sounds like a whip hitting sheet metal forming a sort of click track for the rest of the band. Itís the kind of heavy-handed sonic statement that one would expect from Rush, but the song overcomes it by the force of its own catchiness.

ìShe Goes Off at Nightî is where the album really gets going. The cymbal splashes and rat-tat-tat snare fills are pure Keith Moon, and the slashing power chords are pure Pete Townshend. The bridge of the song, though, is pure shoe-gazer loveliness. ìBeat Your Wingsî is a lighter-waving stadium anthem, one of many songs in which the current lineup of GBV shows off its musical chemistry. Listen to drummer Kevin Marchís beat displacements during the guitar solo, and youíll see what I mean. ìUseless Inventionsî is an anti-technology punk screed that will have you jumping around the room in mere seconds; it has already ascended into my list of favorite GBV songs ever. ìDirty Waterî is bluesy prog-rock complete with harmonized wah-wah guitars and meter changes. It is successful in ways that previous attempts at prog (see Do the Collapseís ìLiquid Indianî and Universal Truths and Cyclesís ìStorm Vibrationsî) failed because of its comparatively brisk tempo and brief running time. ìThe Best of Jill Hivesî could have been a long-lost Under the Bushes out-take. ìDead Cloudî is another propulsive mishmash of stop-start dynamics and meter changes, and ìMix Up the Satelliteî puts four distinct riffs together in a combination that doesnít sound the least bit disjointed.

The lyrics of ìThe Main Street Wizardsî ooze wistful nostalgia: ìWill you exchange the past? Nothing is meant to lastÖstill they are coming back to you.î The music follows suit in a way that would conjure up the majesty of Bee Thousand if it were recorded on a cheap four-track. The next two songs could be interpreted as, respectively, Pollardís internal and external dialogue about the state of GBV. ìA Trophy Mule in Particularî betrays his desire for the band to be a messianic musical force. He considers it ìa challenge, one to go for and celebrate, with the stock market tumbling and the rock market crumbling.î He then refers to himself as ìa soldier, a trophy mule.î ìApology in Advanceî could be interpreted as a rebuke to the critics who have hounded him over the last couple of years. ìA disabled vet? Well, Iím not there yet! [Iíve] been around the block; Iíve even threw up one street over!î Anyone who has studied GBV over the last couple of years knows that it hasnít been exactly easy for them. Pollardís dealt with a divorce, acrimonious lineup changes, and failed attempts at hit making. He deserves to characterize himself as a weary but persevering soldier in the battlefield of rock. The ten-song stretch from ìShe Goes Off at Nightî to ìApology in Advanceî on Earthquake Glue serves as a good case for him to keep fighting the good fight.

The last two songs make a slight return to the awkwardness of the albumís beginning. ìSecret Starî is really two brilliant two-minute songs shoehorned together by an ill-advised drone interlude. Three simultaneous guitar riffs, all of which fit the song individually but donít work well together, drive album closer ìOf Mites and Menî. If any one of the guitars were punched out of the mix, the song would improve as a result. However, as is the case with almost every GBV album, even the failures can only be considered such when compared to Pollardís best work. They still tower high above the best songs on the majority of rock records released nowadays. Pollard has often said that the four Pís of rock drive his music: pop, punk, psych, and prog. Whereas most of GBVís albums sound like collages of songs that fit these four categories, Earthquake Glue puts them into a fairly homogeneous mix. The proficiency of the bandís current lineup has enabled them to integrate jerky dynamics, meter changes, and subtle keyboards and sound effects into their songs in ways that the classic lineup never could. Thus, there are very few songs on this record that can be easily categorized as one of the four Pís. This, more than anything, is what makes the album such a rarity on GBVís discography. What is so amazing about the band is that even after almost twenty years in the game, theyíre still undergoing the process of self-actualization. Theyíre still figuring out what kind of band they want to be, and this indecision yields more surprises than one would expect within the rigid parameters that Pollard has set for his music. In conclusionÖ



Screw itÖ


(He will, too.--ed.)

---Sean Padilla

Velvet Crush "Free Expression"

Ladies and gentlemen, let's step back a few years and revisit my old 'zine, Lois is my Queen. Let's look and see what was said about Free Expression the first time around:

"This new album by retropoppers Velvet Crush is a good but not entirely satisfying record. Apparently, Velevt Crush have undergone a major lineup change, and this album finds them in that most dreaded of all positions: "in transition." Because of this, their songs, while good, never really go any further than simply being "nice," friendly and affable pop music that's not going to offend your sensibilities. Still, I'd be lying if I didn't say that something seems to be missing. There's just an unknown creative spark that is lacking on Free Expression. It seems a bit too raw in places--especially the drumming--and I feel as if they're simply going through the motions of what Velvet Crush should sound like. Don't get me wrong--there are some extremely wonderful moments here and there, from lovely harmonies, passages that sound stolen from Roger McGuinn, and a friendly, sunny vibe that just screams Los Angeles. The best number on Free Expression is "Melody #1," and it is here that they achieve the highest peak of success: "bubblegum heaven." While I have every hopes that this album is a 'grower,' it hasn't really sparked any sense of devotion in me as of yet, and each time I listen to it, I try to find something outstanding about it, but it's sadly not connecting with me. It's good, what you'd expect Velvet Crush to sound like, but sometimes that's not enough. It's no Teenage Symphonies to God,--but then again, what could be?

That's a bit harsh, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so, too, and on listening to the reissue of Free Expression I've changed my opinion on it. At the time, it just didn't strike a chord with me, and I really can't explain why, really. It just wasn't a love connection. As hard as I try to rationalize why it didn't move me, I just don't know what to say. Free Expression--while a bit rough around the edges, is everything I like: strong hooks, wonderful melodies, harmonies to die for, and an obvious all-around commitment to making quality music. I'm still quite fond of "Melody #1," even if it does sound like a Byrds outtake (and a possible source of, erm, borrowed inspiration for The Polyphonic Spree's "Light & Day"), and "Ballad of Yesteryear" is the song that's grown on me the most. Interestingly enough, the album was produced by Matthew Sweet; it's interesting in the fact that this album sounds a whole lot like his new band, The Thorns.

Velvet Crush decided to make things a bit interesting with the reissue of Free Expression by including a second disc that is merely a demo version of the album. Want to know the interesting part? It could have easily be released as an album, and nobody would have been the wiser. While there are moments that are indeed rough, it's difficult at times to compare the two albums, because it's hard to say that one version is better than another, especially when they're so similar. Then again, all it takes is a little less gloss and polish to make a song better. Case in point: "Roman Candle." The album version is a pretty good little number, though it's got a pretty annoying little wah-wah guitar that's rather annoying. The demo version? It's rougher, the guitar part doesn't seem nearly as annoying, and the harmonies on the chorus are not only more pronounced, they're overbearing--and I love it!

The nice thing about getting older is the ability to recognize quality when you hear it. I'll admit that I wasn't open to Free Expression at the time, but now that time's passed, I can hear exactly how wonderful of a record it is. True, it's not their best work--that honor still belongs to Teenage Symphonies to God, but Free Expression is still a fair little masterpiece.

--Joseph Kyle

August 25, 2002

Seana Carmody "Struts and Shocks"

In an earlier Mundane Sounds review of mine, I stated that bands with too many ideas are usually better than bands with too few ideas, and I backed up my assertion by briefly mentioning the Swirlies. That band's almost defunct now, but they were one of the late-nineties bands that helped me get through high school without strangling anyone. They forged a disjointed, but invigorating hybrid of My Bloody Valentine's whammy-bar acrobatics, Stereolab's Moog drones, and Sebadoh's collage-like approach to recording fidelity. I still love their music dearly, which is why I was so excited to see Seana's solo debut in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. After leaving the Swirlies, Seana formed a forgettable outfit called Syrup USA, whose keyboard-driven twee pop had already been done better by Helium on their swan song The Magic City. I was curious as to what she would do on this record. Would she return to the noise of the Swirlies, continue with the frillier textures of Syrup USA, or throw me completely for a loop by forsaking them both?

As it turns out, Struts and Shocks stays somewhere in between
the first two options. Contrary to the album's title, Seana neither struts nor shocks anyone during these ten songs. Even on the louder songs, her voice never raises itself above a crisp, slightly flat croon. Most of this album ambles along in a pleasant mid-tempo groove that threatens to turn into mere background music if one doesn't listen attentively. At thirty-three minutes, the album is criminally brief; not all of the songs are solid, which leads me to believe that Seana really didn't have enough compelling material to fill a full-length. Ironically, the album's missteps are the songs in which she lays the distortion on thick. "Tailgate" shows promise but is marred by a meandering bridge and "Stay Awake" coasts on one chord for eight minutes that will leave most listeners unable to obey the title's command. Fortunately, the positives on this album outweigh the negatives.

First of all, "Mighty Bull" has become my favorite song released this
year. This evocative ode to a charismatic friend builds up to a breezy climax with nothing but four dissonant chords and a wordless melody. This song is probably the closest that Seana comes to establishing her own distinct sound. Reading the special thanks list in her liner notes will give you an idea of what the rest of this album sounds like. She thanks Victory at Sea front woman Mona Elliott (who also sings on two tracks), and the slow, tense waltz "Lazy Island" definitely bears that bandÕs influence. Seana also thanks Swirlies band mate Damon Tutunjian, and her usage of the whammy-bar on "Sidewalk" wouldn't sound out of place on their debut EP, What to Do About Them. The whimsical imagery and pretty, deliberate guitar strumming on "Tornadoes" and "Deirdre" make them sound like songs that Mary Timony forgot to write. Speaking of such, Mary's current drummer Christina Files was the woman who filled in on vocals and guitar for Seana when she left the Swirlies! This definitely has got to be some kind of musical circle of life, but I digress...

Seana could have removed the two weakest songs from Struts and
and marketed it as a mid-price EP. Having said that, the album is worth the ten bucks for "Mighty Bull" alone, and after registering under the indie-rock radar for so long, it's very nice to have Seana back. It's all uphill from here, and if the Swirlies don't manage to get their act together and make a third album, Seana's solo follow-up should be the next best thing.

---Sean Padilla

August 24, 2002

Various Artists "Cool As Ice: The Be Music Productions"

For fascinating historical documents of the British independent music scene, fewer labels have been quite as enthralling as LTM. From their historical documents of one-single-only bands and others whose names are whispered with a certain amount of secrecy and awe, they have really preserved music that would otherwise have been lost to obscurity. Though some at Pitchfork Media might disagree, I personally think they're doing a service, and they should be commended for preserving the talents of folk such as Cath Carroll, Blue Orchids and The Wake.

Cool As Ice: The Be Music Productions is a little bit different, though, in that it was not originally a record--or, even, really a band. Instead, it is a collection of remixes done by New Order under the guise of "Be Music." As you'd expect, these remixes are dancefloor ready; unlike modern remixers, who think of a remix as an opportunity to bring their own special touch to a song, the Be Music style does not really change the style of the song. Indeed,the rhythms added by Hook, Gilbert, Sumner, and Morris are very contemporary; though none of the remixes have the same potency of "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Blue Monday" or "Perfect Kiss," they do come rather close.

Though this period of outside remixing as Be Music only lasted for about two years, they were quite productive dring that period of time. The twelve tracks on Cool As Ice represent the tip of their remix iceberg, and while there's no evidence that these are (or aren't) the best of the lot, these songs are all worthy of inclusion. Personally, I'm fond of Quando Quango's "Love Tempo," Section 25's "Looking From a Hilltop," Marcel King's "Reach For Love" and 52nd Street's "Can't Afford To Let You Go" and "Cool As Ice," two songs I vaguely remember from the eighties. While these songs might sound dated, some of them still sound fresh. Know why? It's simple, really. Many of these songs have rhythms that have been sampled, borrowed, or stolen. Cool As Ice also includes a New Order rarity, the "Be Music Theme," which was a Peter Hook composition that was used as intro music for Stockholm Monsters.

While Cool As Ice might serve as merely an interesting collection of underground dance remixes from the mid-1980s, these mixes also prove another point--that New Order were, at one time, a significant force to be reckoned with in the underground dance world. Nowadays they're considered nothing more than the guys who hung with Ian Curtis, and it's a shame that they're known as the lesser remnants of Joy Division who had some mainstream hits. Cool As Ice: The Be Music Productions certainly shows how ahead of the game they really were.

--Joseph Kyle

August 23, 2002

Eric Bachmann "Short Careers: Soundtrack to the Film Ball of Wax"

This is Merge's third soundrack album in less than a year, and, oddly, it's strikingly similar to the other two--both solo projects from well-established musicians, both instrumental based, both clocking in at less than 40 minutes, and both being slightly more experimental than the particular artist's normal fare. It's also Bachmann's formal solo debut as well, and after years of impressive records with Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers, who could blame Bachmann for wanting to put out a record under his own name?

Unfortunatly, unlike those previous two albums (by Portastatic and Stephin Merritt), Short Careers does not prove to be as enjoyable a diversion as one would hope, simply because without any sense of context, the music just seems...flat. While it must be stated that the music on Short Careers certainly expands on Bachmann's current fascination with dark, brooding atmosphere, that doesn't necessarily mean that these songs have the same level of passion of Crooked Fingers or even Bachmann's previous instrumental experiment, Barry Black.

Short Careers' shortcomings aren't necessarily Bachmann's fault. Music can work wonders for a movie, yet without having the advantage of seeing the film, you can't really appreciate the music, especially if the music makes the scene. Instead, we're left with ideas that seem somehow incomplete, and that adds up to songs that just seem to exist side by side, with no real connection to the song that follows or precedes it. At times, though, Short Careers sounds a lot like electronic instrumentalists In the Nursery, but without their cohesiveness.

Bachmann's made some great records, but Short Careers isn't one of them. Short Careers shows that Bachmann's delving deeper into electronic-based mood music, but this experiment proves to be less interesting and, ultimately, rather forgettable. While I still eagerly await each new Eric Bachmann record, Short Careers was a major disappointment, especially considering his track record.

---Joseph Kyle

August 22, 2002

American Analog Set "updates"

I'm not always fond of remix records, especially when I'm in a position that I'm not either a. familiar with the original version, or b. familiar with the remixer. Remixing is an art, to be sure, and sometimes the remix takes on a life that's more like its remixer than the original idea for the song. All but two of these tracks are reworkings of songs from their most recent album, Know By Heart, which saw the band changing their older style, to mixed success.

Updates is American Analog Set's first visit to the world of the remix, and, shockingly, it's surprisingly fresh. Though not a full-length, the fact that Updates is but a mere EP means that the idea of quiet-band-gone-remixed doesn't overstay its welcome, nor is the concept allowed to drag on. It's a surefire way to experiment without having the same kind of band commitment to the idea that a full-length would naturally create. Plus, failures on an EP aren't considered quite as serious as full-length failures.

Updates consists of two new songs, one being "Desert Eagle," an electronic recreation of some older ideas, and "These Days," a cover of Her Space Holiday, with whom the band just recently toured. Her Space Holiday come into play again, with two remixes, "Aaron & Maria" and "Know By Heart." Electronica artist Styrofoam remixed the other two tracks, "The Postman" and "We're Computerizing and We Just Don't Need You Anymrore." The Her Space Holiday tracks are harder, with more of a schitzophrenic edge to them. The Styrofoam tracks are just the opposite, focusing on the band's softer, colder side. Both artists breathe life into tracks off of Know By Heart. I thought the album was weak and didn't give it much thought, and I missed the beautiful song "The Postman." This song is gorgeous and sad and lovely, and I'm going to have to dig that out again to see if my listening experience will be different. I guess that's the whole point of these remix projects anyway; here's hoping the band mix these new ideas into their sound while working on their new album...

---Joseph Kyle

August 21, 2002

Year of the Rabbit

Year of the Rabbit is easily the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde album of the year. I've been really, really torn about how I should approach it. On one hand, I really love the album. It has that quality that makes you go "YEAH!!!" when you put it on your stereo. On the other hand, there's a high price to be paid for such a universal sound. If I give it a good review, I'd be guilty of holding myself back; if I give it a bad review, I'd be guilty of not pointing out its strong points. Sadly, this is not an album where you can give a mixed review, either; when it's good, it's real good, when it's bad, it's utterly horrible.

First the good things. Year of the Rabbit sound awesome. It's quite obvious that these guys--who have been making music professionally for the past thirteen years--have got some mad skills. Year of the Rabbit sound as if they spent the last three years on tour before they set foot in a studio. Their songs have a very tough punch that could have easily kicked the ass of STP, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains; their music is extremely radio-friendly, too, which would have been to their advantage--in theory, at least--ten years ago. Put this one on your car stereo, crank it up and drive--you'll have one wonderful experience, because these guys rock in a way so few bands do now.

What, then, makes Year of the Rabbit so problematic? It's because it's so been there, done that, so by-the-book, that to indulge in it seems wrong. Of course, when you sound like a dead-ringer for Kurt Cobain, and your sound is horribly dated, it's hard to accept it as being anything but new. I figured that these guys would have at least tried to avoid the cliches of ten years ago. (Has it really been a decade?) Sadly, Year of the Rabbit sounds like a conceptual Cobain-sung version of Foo Fighters, and nothing more. None of the songs really stick out; they're all 'good' in that vague kind of way that goes along with someone who is 'good' in all of the fundamentals.

Even more puzzling is the fact that they're an unknown band getting major-label funding. How did this happen? This album is a total anomaly; it's retro-rock of the worst kind, and it's about ten years past its prime. That's the catch, though. Maybe that is their shtick. Maybe they're the retro band--maybe they're trying to make it big by regurgitating the past, milking the nostalga of yesteryear for $omething a little more rewarding. THey do it so well, though, that you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was an older record. It's so clean and inoffensive and radio friendly, it's the musical equivalent of a bandaid. Year of the Rabbit needlessly wastes a perfectly good parental warning sticker, too--somewhere, an ODB record goes unlabelled. A real tragedy, that.

It's a fine line between redefining older sounds and simply living in the past, and Year Of the Rabbit zig-zag across the border without a care in the world. Year of the Rabbit is an album that says absolutely nothing by some extremely talented people. It sounds excellent, but at what price? Is the sacrifice of a soul really worth the end results? This album is like the pink lemonade I drink around the home office--yummy, sweet, enjoyable, but yet it's totally empty of calories.

--Joseph Kyle

August 12, 2002

Akufen "My Way"

Many IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) practitioners constantly strive for new sounds and new methods by which to contort them. Although the quest for originality-above-all-else may keep the genre’s musical progress from stagnating, it doesn’t really make things easy for neophyte listeners. Though many are adventurous enough to dip their toes in the water, most are too attached to the tried and true to dive into the shallow end of the pool.

My personal introduction to IDM came from Autechre’s 1996 masterwork Tri Repetae, which is basically the turning point of their oeuvre. The two albums they made before Tri Repetae struck me as a bit cheesy and dated, whereas everything they made afterwards would probably strike everyone who isn’t already into Autechre by now as too cerebral or difficult. If someone were to ask me what IDM sounded like, and I could only choose one record as an answer, I wouldn’t choose Autechre’s debut Amber, nor would I pick Confield, their most recent (and arguably harshest) album. I could use examples from the discographies of Oval and Aphex Twin to back my case up, but I will simply get to the point. Every once in a while, an IDM record comes along that is anchored firmly enough in traditional sounds to satiate those just getting their feet wet, but also forward-thinking enough to entrance the deep sea divers. Akufen’s My Way is one of them.

Akufen, a.k.a. Marc Leclair, composes his tracks with a technique that he refers to as “micro-sampling”. The technique is exactly what its name implies; instead of sampling entire bars or hooks from songs
Puffy-style, Leclair excises millisecond-length bits from whatever broadcasts he happens to glean from his short-wave radio. Voices are broken down to either individual consonants for a percussive effect, or individual vowels for a melodic effect. I think the only voice on the whole record that I can identify is a syllable from a Janet Jackson song (on “Heaven Can Wait”); I’m not entirely sure what it is about her voice that remains distinctive even when chopped into such small bits. Organic instruments, many of them seemingly derived from ‘70s jazz-funk songs, are only allowed to play a couple of notes, if that much, before being abruptly interrupted by the next sample. Of course, both Prefuse 73 and Nuno Canavarro have made use of small vocal samples before Leclair. However, Leclair is the first artist I’ve heard to make micro-sampling his primary method of composition, and to apply this technique to instruments as well as voices. With the aid of very precise panning and tasteful usage of reverb, these micro-samples are combined to form collages that are paced rapidly enough to induce seizures when listened to on headphones.

Two things keep My Way from becoming an experiment gone awry:
its roots in house music and its masterful sequencing. Opening track “Even White Horizons” is the album’s most mellow, attempting a kind of futuristic jazz-noir with its samples of weepy strings and ominous acoustic guitars. On this song and the album’s next two tracks, the micro-samples are used sparingly as garnish over what would otherwise be pleasant and slightly formulaic four-on-the-floor beats. Each song is more strident than the last, the micro-samples becoming slightly more jarring; third track “Skidoos” makes particularly great use of four different people uttering the same syllable. You get the feeling that Leclair is slowly trying to ease you into the extremities of his sound world.

Once the fourth track “Deck the House” begins, though, he pulls the rug off from under your feet. The droning keyboards that carried the previous three songs are abandoned. The micro-samples are left to completely dictate the chord progressions and melodies of the next six songs, with only the staccato bass lines and four-on-the-floor rhythms left to support them. Short-wave interference, dial tones, and other miscellaneous sound effects are micro-sampled along with the voices and instruments. The collages get so hectic that by the time the ten-minute epic “Late Night Munchies” begins, you’ll feel like a ball inside a pinball machine. No matter what happens, though, the songs on My Way remain easy to dance to, and occasionally even hummable. You can play any of these songs in a club, and after the audience realizes that the P.A. system isn’t malfunctioning, they’ll resume dancing like nothing ever happened.

The title track that closes the album begins completely free of
micro-samples, and the sampled vocalists are allowed to sing an entire phrase: “I want to do it my way.” This comparatively relaxed and uncluttered portion serves as a fitting palate cleanser after the
frenzy of the previous six songs. He doesn’t let the listeners off the hook so easy, though; in case anyone forgets what Leclair’s way means, he lets a flurry of micro-sampled organs hijack the song at its five-minute mark. When My Way fades out, you will agree that Leclair has more than earned the right to be such an autocrat. Here’s hoping that musically, Akufen neither regresses nor disappears up his own arse, as so many of his contemporaries are wont to do...

---Sean Padilla

Sarah Shannon "Sarah Shannon"

Can we really be surprised that Sarah Shannon, former and current Velocity Girl singer, would make an album of baroque, light-jazz pop, a la Bacharach? Stranger things have happened, and this isn't one of them.In fact, the pairing of Shannon's husky yet sensual voice with Blake Wescott's gorgeous instrumental production works in only the grandest of ways.

Normally, such grand aspirations fall in to the category of "adult contemporary." Reminiscent at times of late-1980s Everything But the Girl, Sarah Shannon provides a great new take on a tried and tired genre. Unlike alt-rock contemporary Nina Gordon, Shannon's not going for anything haughty or overwhelmingly commercial here--she's just singing pop because, darn it, she likes pop.

The opening "Down" quickly sets the mood of a lite-jazz radio playing in a coffee shop in a hip downtown area of (insert your town here). The rest of the album never breaks from that formula, yet it never once falls into a rut. Personally, I'm absolutely content with Sarah Shannon. I never could have expected that she would make a record so sublime, so beautiful, and so nothing that she's ever done before

Yep, there's none of that smelly indie-rock here, and let's thank god for that. "Call You on the Telephone" will quickly make you forget about "Crazy Town," and, as a whole, Sarah Shannon will make you forget all about that last Velocity Girl record. While a blatant change of style fails most of those who attempt it, Sarah Shannon's got a winner here, folks. I can't help but wonder if they'll take a walk down the path formed by Sarah Shannon, for it might just prove to be the key to success they missed the first time around.

--Joseph Kyle

August 11, 2002

Windsor for the Derby "The Emotional Rescue LP"

When you drive across Texas, after about nine hours, you start to get a bit blurry in mind. You get a little bit hazy, the road seems to go on and on and on, and you're hypnotized by the road. For years now, Texas artists have attempted to tap in to the tedium, the boredom, and the charm of the nothingness that exists in and around Texas. From the brooding, loudness of Explosions in the Sky, to the hazy, slightly stoned tones of American Analog Set, and from scenes as diverse as Austin, Denton, and Houston, Texas has had a profound affect on musicians here.

Windsor for the Derby is no exception. Having created some beautifully sparse records over the past few years, there's a certain sense of expectation about them. The Emotional Rescue, however, finds the former Texas band moving a bit from their droning, hazy past. Instead of long, dark, instrumental epics, Windsor for the Derby have turned in an album that's more folk-rock than drone-rock. Like contemporaries American Analog Set, they've simply looked into a more song-based, folkier sound that hints at--instead of rehashes--their previous glories. I think I know what they're trying to do: they're trying to mix cold technology with warm songs, in order to create an electronic-based folk that's both coldy human and warmly electronic.

I'm not really sure, though, if the recipe for their new style is fully cooked. While the music is pretty, it's not quite as spectacular as previous efforts. At times, such as "Emotional Rescue" and "Awkwardness," Windsor for the Derby sound A LOT like New Order. Other times, such as on "Another Rescue," "Mythologies" and the re-recorded "Now I Know the Sea," the songs seem to meander just a little bit. There are some moments on The Emotional Rescue LP, such as opener "The Same" and closer "Donkey Ride," that hint at their former glories, but there's nothing that really sustains a pulse over the album. Though this album stumbles, it hints at ideas that, if developed more, might lead to later greatness. The Emotional Rescue LP is a snapshot of a great band's awkward age--beautiful in the beginning, not so pretty during their transition, and
even more so after maturation.

--Joseph Kyle

August 10, 2002

Orange Cake Mix "A Shadow of Eclipse and Other Phases of the Moon"

The first thing that strikes you with this record is the Factory meets Teenbeat Graphica art style. Knowing that Jim Rao does have tastes that lean in that direction, the cover didn't really surprise me. It's kind of a futuristic looking affair, but the "future" as imagined from a 1950s or 1960s viewpoint. In a rare case of judging a book by its cover, the cover--very similar to Factory, Teenbeat, and other labels of distinction-- is much truer to the style Jim goes for than some of his other releases, but that's a moot point. When you pop this little disk on, however, beautiful things start to play.

Rao has the prolific nature of Bob Pollard, except that he's making dream-pop. The one good truth about prolific artists is that, over time, they start to outshine their recording medium/format/styles, and this record, this glorious record, makes one forgive Rao of occasionally putting out not so strong releases. With A Shadow Of Eclipse and Other Phases of the Moon, one starts to notice that Rao's quietly turned into a master of quiet, low-key, lo-fi new wave space pop, and those of us "in the know" have been blessed with a record of quiet charm, twinkling pianos, and subtle beauty.

Yes, he still has the definite Durutti Column-style thing going on, but he's honed this to such a fine point that you don't automatically recognize the influence, and it seems he's doing more beat-oriented tunes now and he's going for a fuller sound, rather than one man on a guitar and keyboard. Some of these tunes even sound like a full band as opposed to the one-man thing he's known for. What is consistant is that Rao still has that shy, understated croon; one that's sad and refrained, yet elegent in its own shy manner.

A Shadow of Eclipse is a brilliant record, really. Don't let its simple appearance deceive you--it's a very complex record. Though the songs are divided into three different sections, the album really flows nicely from track to track; "Seeds and Stones" is the epic here that you've wanted Rao to make. In a way, I think this is Rao's Daydream Nation; containing everything you've come to expect from a Orange Cake Mix record, yet leaving you with a feeling that the future's gonna be greater than this. Personally, I think it's Rao's strongest, most cohesive sounding, and most daring release to date. Rao has worked very hard on his music, and it's rather obvious by listening to this, his newest album, that he's quietly making the music that matters. Though 2001 was an unusually quiet year for Rao, we can only wait and hear what goodness he will produce next.

--Joseph Kyle

August 08, 2002

Mice Parade "All Roads Lead to Salzburg (New, Live, BBC and Otherwise...)"

At last--a compilation album of material that's more new than old, and the "old" songs are live, improvised numbers. Actually, Mice Parade--who is Adam Pierce and Doug Scharin, with a group of friends--have made a quite beautiful, impressive album from the scraps of recordings they made on their most recent series of tours--but it's not a live album, really. Instead of going the traditional route and releasing an entire show or highlights from a series of shows, Mice Parade have included not only numerous live tracks, but also a few numbers recorded for BBC shows last year, and one or two "experiments" made on a computer that include samples of--but not the entirety of--live recordings.

Not that you could really tell the difference. All Roads Lead to Salzburg genltly flows back and forth, soothing the listener after a hard day at work or, in the case of yours truly, a long drive. What's incredible is how Pierce and company have really tapped into a Durutti Column vibe--and while others have done the same, Mice Parade don't sound like they're stealing anything from Vini Reily. Taking him as inspiration, and moving forward into a sonic space they can call their own, making a sort of space music that's not jazz, new age, or experimental--just soothing. And sometimes soothing's just fine with me.

What really sets Mice Parade apart from their contemporaries comes from the fact that I don't know of any band that prominently features a Cheng, or Chinese Zither. Aside from Modern Jazz Quartet and the aforementioned Durutti Column, I don't know of any band that has made mellow moon-age sounds with beautiful-sounding vibes, harps, and keyboards, or warm, all-natural songs such as "Circle 1" or "One Road Led To Columbia" or, hell, all of All Roads Lead to Salzburg. One of the nicest and easily the most relaxing records I've heard all year.

--Joseph Kyle

August 07, 2002

Cath Carroll "England Made Me"

Does anyone remember those Good Old Days of the late 1980s, when "beauty" and "intelligence" in independent music were not mutually exclusive? When music was actually INTELLIGENT and not VAPID. Cath Carroll's a figure of British music journalism, having been a writer of note for such magazines as New Musical express, as well as leader of the short-lived but cult-loved Factory C-86 era band Miaow. Of course, American indie kids would know her as the subject of Mark Robinson's affection (obsession?) on Unrest's last album, Perfect Teeth. Not only is there a love song to her called "Cath Carroll," but after listening to England Made Me, you could make a case that Carroll would probably not be unjustified in being a little nervous of this fellow who, seemingly, references her record throughout his record. Of course, his appreciation led to his label Teenbeat releasing two Cath Carroll singles and an album. Oh, and there's also a rumor about that this record was what caused the death of Factory Records, what with the expensive budget that was spent on it, the recording sessions in Brazil, the photo sessions with Robert Mapplethorpe, with little return.

To be fair to Robinson, England Made Me is an album worthy of obsession. It's also an album of dark deception, because you'd also be correct in thinking that it's straightforward dance-music. Adult Contemporary is a term that would normally be a pejorative, but not in England Made Me's case. Sure, I've danced around while writing this review, but Carroll's a siren-song singer of the highest magnitude, and I would honestly have to say that I'm convinced. Her voice is the unlikely combination of Bryan Ferry and Sade, and while such a description may seem awfully winsome, it's pretty accurate.

Why this album didn't take off for Factory is a bit of a puzzle. It flows rather nicely, from dancepop ("Moves Like You," "Send Me Over" to flamenco-guitar bossanova ballads ("Unforgettable") and even a Steve Albini-led carnivalesque number, "Train You're On." There's nothing odd or weird or anything that Everything But The Girl wouldn't have done going on here; it's simply pop. England Made Me is a rainy-day afternoon pop-lite affair that is really rather enjoyable. This reissue includes several single sides that really don't vary from the album's formula. England Made Me leads off Carroll's return, as she has a new album forthcoming, and here's hoping that she won't get lost in the shuffle this time around, and maybe, just maybe, she might inspire an Unrest reunion!

--Joseph Kyle

McLusky "Mclusky Do Dallas"

Bands, take note: if you're looking for a surefire way to get your CD
listened to immediately after I take it out of my mailbox, put the
words "Recorded by Steve Albini" in your liner notes. (In fact, I'm still bristling over the fact that my dastardly four-eyed nemesis Kyle Sowash managed to turn in a review of Silkworm's Italian Platinum, which Albini recorded, before I did.) I know that Steve would prefer his name not to appear on your album credits, but the guy's production---OOPS, I meant recording---is so consistently awesome that he really deserves to be name-checked. Even if I end up hating your music, I'll suffer through it just to marvel at how Albini manages to make the drums sound so booming. Let's face it: the guy even managed to make Bush sound half-decent. Quit laughing at me, hipsters--if you tune out Gavin Rossdale's sore throat and nonsensical lyrics Razorblade Suitcase actually becomes an above-average album. As usual, Steve's unique miking techniques give Mclusky Do Dallas much of its sonic heft, and it also helps that he resists the temptation to put the vocals or the bass way in the back of the mix. None of this would matter, though, if the music contained on this CD wasn't some of the funniest and most intense rock music I've heard all year.

Picture the Pixies fronted by Jello Biafra, and you'll have an idea of just how incendiary and skewed this Welsh trio's musical outlook is. On opener "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues," guitarist Falkous delivers lines like "The gun's in my hand and I know it looks bad, but believe me, I'm innocent," in a panicky wail that makes him sound exactly like the lying murderer the lyrics portray. By the third verse, Falkous' vocals are so bilious that his words turn into mush, and you can visualize him having a near-seizure as he approaches the microphone. Mclusky Do Dallas is full of such sordid, amoral tales. "Clique Application Form" details a teenage girl's reckless sexual coming of age, "Alan is a Cowboy Killer" alludes to child molestation and credit card fraud, and "Dethink to Survive" describes a nervous protagonist's failed attempts to distract himself from the awful things going on around him. Not all of the subject matter is such heavy going, though. Mclusky donÕt hesitate to brag about their bandÕs musical prowess (the ingeniously titled "The World Loves us and is Our Bitch") and drug intake ("To Hell With Good Intentions"), or make fun of overly image-conscious bands ("Collagen Rock") and the egghead culture snobs who worship them ("Who You Know"). Mclusky put much more thought and effort into their consistently sarcastic and concise lyrics than the ragged, live-with-no-overdubs musical backdrops would imply; I could fill at least another paragraph with my favorite quotes from this album, but fortunately a lyric sheet is provided in the CD booklet.

"Collagen Rock" and "Day of the Dead Ringers" bear the biggest debt to the Pixies, with Falkous playing both Joey Santiago and Black Francis, backing up his insane shrieking with chromatic single-note guitar lines. Other songs, such as "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues" and "Dethink to Survive," are speedy Husker Du-style power-chord blasts. The deadpanned vocals, choppy guitar chords, and unusual time signature of "Clique Application Form" come straight out of the Shellac handbook. The band does occasionally deviate from angry post-punk. In the hands of a band such as Blur, "Gareth Brown Says" could be a nice piece of class-mockery pop; at the very least, it's the closest that Falkous comes to singing a tuneful vocal melody. Mclusky even make room for a slow ballad. Staying true to their abrasive nature, they title the ballad "Fuck This Band" and allow Falkous to completely phone in his vocals, as if his voice was too worn from screaming through the rest of the album to stay on key for this one song. This is not a complaint, though; chances are if you spent the other fourteen songs starting a one-man mosh pit in your living room like I did, you'd be just as tired as Falkous is!

In conclusion, when Falkous sings "My band is better than your band" on "To Hell with Good Intentions," he's probably right. Although
name-dropping Albini was the only thing that made a cursory listen a matter of urgency, the overall quality of Mclusky Do Dallas made subsequent listens an absolute necessity. I haven't been able to get this CD out of my boom box all week. For all I care, Bob Rock could have produced itÉokay, maybe not, but you get the point. These guys SHOULD come to Texas and "do Dallas"...and Austin and Houston while they're at it!

---Sean Padilla

Bobby Bare, Jr "Young Criminal's Starvation League"

When an artist is imperfect, sometimes those imperfections can actually enhance their art. Look at K Records, for example. Many of their artists (including loveable labelhead Calvin) supplement their lack of ability with a certain charm that can't be denied. A unique and original sound can often ring louder than the most technically perfect sound.

If you've heard Bobby Bare Jr's band, Bare Jr, you wouldn't think that a record like Young Criminal's Starvation League would be possible. I'll make no bones about it--don't care for Bare, Jr (the band) simply because the music seems forced and outdated. Alt-rock? Come on, this is the 21st century! Thankfully there's nothing that could pass for Bare Jr on baby Bobby's solo debut. In fact, I wouldn't really know that the two were related were it not for the obvious name thing.

Don't let his past bother you, though. Young Criminal's Starvation League is a fun, funny record, even when he's being totally serious. "I'll Be Around" kicks off the album, and is easily one of the best songs I've heard all year. It's a ballad-ish type of song about his devotion to a less-than-loving lover. His voice, however, is set somewhere between caterwaul and bitterness, and it really makes the lyrics seem much harsher than they actually are.

It's that odd vocal combination--and YES, he does sound that way--which gives Young Criminal's Starvation League its kick. For the most part, the songs are acoustic-based, though he is supplemented at times by a full band sound and female accompaniment on songs such as "Stay in Texas" and "The Monk at the Disco." His humor, though, is the thing that really sets these songs apart. While some people try to be funny in their music, his songs are hillariously sardonic, especially “Dig Down,” his bitter, open letter response to the greats of rock and roll--Pete Townsend, Jimi Hendrix, and Black Francis. There are some real tender moments, too, such as “Meehan” and “Painting Her Fingernails,” but thankfully Bare doesn’t tarry too long in one particular style or sound, creating a varied, pleasant, and rather soothing listen.

Welcome to the world, Bobby Bare, Jr. We really like your songs about lonely, drug-addicted small breasted girls who abuse their cat (my cat hates that song), priests who get offered blow at clubs, and odes to the great nation-state of Texas. We also like your cover of both the Smiths “What Difference Does it Make?” and your late, great family friend Shel Silverstein’s “Painting Her Fingernails.” Here’s to your success--and Young Criminal’s Starvation League is a success--and to a long, interesting, and funny future.

--Joseph Kyle

August 05, 2002

The Lucksmiths "Where Were We?"

I like this record. There's no real reason to go into any further detail about that--there's nothing to pontificate on. Besides, why should I? I like the Lucksmiths; they make good, pretty, literate pop. How could anyone not really like the Lucksmiths? There's plenty to like about them, and a great deal of it comes from the fact that their music is simply pretty.

Where Were We? is their second singles collection, and these songs clearly show that not only are their b-sides just as brilliant as their singles. Of course, you really see a band's best side when you listen to a compilation album, because you know they're putting (in theory) their best work forward, and such is definitly the case with the Lucksmiths. Starting with their lovely "The Cassingle Revival" (from, heh, a cassingle!), you're pelted with quiet acoustic pop that is easily and quickly compared to such bands as Aden, Belle and Sebastian, and The Go-Betweens. All of these songs shimmer quietly, and while they don't knock you down, they'll pick you up rather nicely.

Really, how could you possibly go wrong with songs about falling in love, being sad, changing seasons, and thoughtful introspection? Truth is, you can't, really, and the Lucksmiths haven't been wrong for several years now. Pick up Where Were We? and get a good listen today to the future stars of tomorrow. Even if the stardom thing doesn't work out, you'll still be glad you spent some time with them, because Where Were We is the sound of a young indiepop band growing up and growing into an impressive act.

--Joseph Kyle

LemonJelly ""

On a long drive with nothing to think about, you need good music to listen to. Lemon Jelly, upon the recommendation of friends, seemed to be a group worth checking out. Sure, I'd heard the hype, heard the free downloads offered at their record label, and I thought to myself, "why not?" I needed something cheery, positive, and intelligent to listen to, and to soothe my mind. is Lemon Jelly's "debut," in that it compiles three extremely limited, hand-designed 10" EPs from the past few years. (I recall seeing the first EP, The Bath when it was released, and it was, indeed, a gorgeously-designed package. )

Sure, Lemon Jelly's electronica-jazz, but, in my mind, it borders on children's music. I'm not talking about your local, Dallas-based Purple Dinosaur-type children's music, mind you. This is heady, trippy, and totally happy music to think to, to write to, to drive to, and to play blocks to. It's pretty, it's bright, it's day-glo, and it's fun. From the children's story-line and lullaby-melody of "His Majesty King Raam" to the silly, nature-show sampled "A Tune for Jack," and the instructional guitar lesson of "The Staunton Lick," you'd think you'd have stumbled into a saturday morning BBC program.

The only fault to be had with, though, is the fact that music has a tendency to be quite repetitve, going from interesting to boring in a matter of minutes. Most of these songs range at the 5-7 minute range as well. If you've got kids, or you've got a need for some background music, I couldn't suggest any higher. Tune in, turn on, and let Lemon Jelly serve as the incidental music of your life.

--Joseph Kyle

August 03, 2002

Yellow6/Rothko/Landing "New Found Land"

Dreampop is a sound that, while simple, is almost always quite complex. Mixing in elements of minimalism, tempered with the concept of distortion and noise can be quite beautiful, it is no surprise, then, that you cannot really define the genre by one particular sound. Music Fellowship started a three-way split CD series that is meant to introduce blissed-out bands by offering a sample of their musical concept. It's actually a great idea; New Found Land is the first of the series, and is an excellent start for such a lovely concept.

The first band on the album is Yellow6, a Leicestershire guitarist by the name of Jon Attwood. His five soundscapes are quite rich and are very lush and soothing, too. Though it's quite obvious that he not only owes a debt to Cocteau Twins and guitar-sonics mastermind Robin Guthrie, he also owes a great deal to electronica/techno masterworks of such innovators Banco de Gaia, Bark Psychosis and Aphex Twin. Though most of his songs are ambient in nature, Yellow6 mixes up and blurs the lines between shoegaze, dreampop, ambient and new age, and it's never sounded better. Of the three bands, Yellow6 is the most cinematic, enigmatic, and engaging band of the lot. After hearing masterpieces like "Centraal," it's really no surprise, then, that Yellow6 have been involved in soundtrack production.

Rothko, on the other hand, is all about guitars. Unlike the other two bands, Rothko's seven selections are all sections of a larger composition, "Halftones and Metatones." As gorgeous as their most recent album was, this version of Rothko (from 1998, I believe) is a much more electric, energetic experience. If you're looking for the subtle beauty that was found on A Continual Search for Origins, then you might want to look elsewhere. As beautiful as their music has been in the past, the songs found here are a harsher, more disturbing affair, more akin to music found in a psychological thriller. Still, these early tracks are a much different affair than their more recent work.

The final act of New Found Land is Landing, and they differ from the other two acts entirely. First, they're the only American act here; second, they're the only band of the bunch (Rothko is technically a band but these tracks were recorded solo), and they're also the only band with vocals. Their five songs are also quite different from their most recent output; at times, they sound not unlike Pale Saints, and the lo-fi nature of the songs certainly reminds me a bit of The Twin Atlas. "Disappear" is the real winner here; the girl/boy vocals are quite beautiful, and though sonically they're quite different than the other two bands--I'd go so far as to say that they don't really seem to flow with the other two groups, they're still lovely.

All in all, New Found Land is a wonderful little document of three very interesting, excellent bands practicing dream-pop. Music Fellowship has started a wonderful series, and this record is a nice start. Look forward to hearing more from all three bands, as well as from this excellent label.

--Joseph Kyle

August 02, 2002

Gravenhurst "Flashlight Seasons"

It's not easy sounding like a sad-sack. Some singers have voices that are never gonna sound happy. Ian Curtis, Nico, Mark Kozelek, Nick Drake, Stephin Merritt, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave--these folk have a career history based upon a strong, austere vocal style. Face it, you aren't going to hear any of these fine folk sing happy-go-lucky, la-la-la type songs anytime soon--and you wouldn't expect them to, either. Of course, when you're making music, vocal inflection plays a key part to the whole, erm, "experience" of listening, and if the sad songs sound like they're being sung by a guy or girl with problems, hey, then, they've made the experience all the more realistic. Kudos for that!

Gravenhurst is the project of Nick Talbot, a folk singer-type from Bristol, England, who has a particularly melancholy singing voice. With his sad songs about love and life and the sad keyboard twinkles here and there, you can't help but feel a little bit gray about your day when you listen to Flashlight Seasons. With a style that's reminiscent of lazy journalist's favorite folk reference point, Elliott Smith, Talbot spins his sadness around some very pretty music and makes a result that's rather dour--but it's a harmless dour. He's not going to hurt you, though he may write a song that might make you feel really sad about whatever you did to him.

Still, I really cannot complain about Flashlight Seasons. While the music might not be too far removed from the sad-folk formula, Talbot's voice is the saving grace. He sings in a higher pitch than most folk who make these kind of records, and it's that right there that makes the music rise above the been-there-done-that folkie thing. Add to that occasional swatches of more experimental accompaniment--nothing particularly unique, mind you, but the music is more than just acoustic guitar pickin', too. With the occasional organ, sampled seagulls (I think), piano twinkles here and there, and a focus on a more atmospheric backing, the music itself is a rich delight. Personally, I'm fond of "Damage" and the moody, disturbing "Tunnels," though ultimately no one song stands out as weaker--or stronger--than another.

Talbot has a knack and a talent for the sadder things in life. While the songs might not be particularly memorable outside of Flashlight Seasons--they seem to flow together a little more than I'd like--that doesn't mean that he's a slouch. The music's good, the songs are nice--but how could he make things stand out? I'd like to see him focusing on the instrumental side of things. If you listen to that aspect of his songs, you'll hear some really great things going on--ideas that should be explored. I've always thought that more musicians of this type should add instrumental passages between every few songs. Why? Because if you add a variety of styles, nobody will think you're Elliott Smith #235264246. Flashlight Seasons is a good record from someone who could make a great one. I'm confident of that.

--Joseph Kyle

The Yayhoos "Fear Not the Obvious"

You want to know what the damn problem is with music today? I'm in a "tell it like it is" kind of mood tonight, so I'll just come out and say it. The greatest problem with most independent music today stems from the fact that said bands do not understand the concept of "fun." Many bands see this simple, three-letter word as some sort of bad, evil presence, one that certainly hinders their dour, "look at me, I'm more than a musician, I'm a 'serious artist'" attitude. At the end of the day, though, these self-appointed artists would do better to just sell their equipment and head off somewhere in a corner to die.

Harsh words, yes, but these are dire times. It's about time that someone said that the emperor's buck nekkid, and the Yayhoos have done so. See, The Yayhoos are a rock band, and that's all they are. There's nothing to second-guess about them, there's not a drop of irony, it's all sincere. Dan Baird, head Yayhoo, isn't doing anything he hasn't done for the past 20 years. See, some of you kids may not remember Georgia Satellites, and that's a damn shame, too. Back in the mid-80's, they had a great Southern Rock hit, "Keep Your Hands To Yourself." When they folded, he released a solo album, which sounded like a Georgia Satellites record, too.

While the Yayhoos aren't trying to sound like the Satellites, they do have that same kind of sound, due in large part to Baird's quite distinctive vocals--a high-pitched rasp that borders between alto and awesome. Every time he sings, you can easily hear his gap-toothed smile. He's havin' a helluva fun time, and his cohorts are, too. Because Baird's such a distinct singer, the only time Fear Not the Obvious falters is when the other Yayhoos--bass player Keith Christopher, drummer Terry Anderson, and guitarist Eric Ambel--take their turn at the mic. Not that they sing poorly, but because Baird's such a strong presence, their songs seem slightly awkward, if not a little derivitive of Baird's style. Either way, it's all good, and is only a minor quibble.

Well, Fear Not the Obvious is the sound of four guys gettin' together for the love of the music. That's all. It's been a long time since you've heard of a band doing that, isn't it? Art for entertainment's sake, and that's a good thing in this day and age of crapola that gets labeled as "music." It's nice to know that there are people out there who won't make a video, hire hype-machines to talk about how great their music is, and who aren't doing thing to satisfy a little clique of people. I'd like to see any of these po-faced bands write something as rockin' as "Oh! Chicago" or "Hankerin'." They can't begin to touch The Yayhoos. With these guys, their Southern-bred, blues-rock with a hint of salvation on the side and a bit of beer in their bellies is something that could never be're either the real deal, or you just ain't.

I was saddened to read that Fear Not the Obvious will be a one-off release. Still, in this polarized music world, The Yayhoos were a breath of fresh air, and sounded like they were one helluva fun live band. Maybe this split will be temporary; maybe they'll hit the road again. As for now, though, Fear Not the Obvious is one helluva dirty, greasy, yet sexy corpse.

--Joseph Kyle