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Published: 2004/08/27
by Brian Gearing

Don’t Mind If I Do – Groovatron


Let's forget for a moment that Groovatron has perhaps the worst name of any outfit currently playing the Midwest jamband circuit. I myself will try to forget that the word "groove" gives me semantic nightmares. Look it up in the thesaurus and you'll understand why. You'll come across words like "rut" and "indentation." Not exactly synonyms of the "groove" so many bands try so hard to cultivate these days. The funny thing is that Groovatron don't really "groove" much at all, at least not on their debut CD, Don’t Mind If I Do.

They do, however, hop from genre to genre, riff to riff, and measure to measure with all the frequency of a cheap, hand-held radio. This album places the Indiana six-piece right smack in the middle of yet another semantic battleground. The term "jamband" has been batted around lately like a Little League pitcher in Yankee Stadium, and much wasted effort has been expended attempting to decide exactly what is and is not a jamband. The answer is simple: It's like art. While folks might not always agree on exactly who or what fits the bill, there are some cases where it's just obvious. Groovatron is about as obvious as it gets.

Let's examine the evidence.

Exhibit A: They give rock critics the willies. Whether because one finds them hard to pin down or unbearably annoying, they are akin to classic jambands like moe. and Phish in their style, or lack thereof, and they don't fit neatly into any box. Don’t Mind If I Do kicks off with "Hazy Halo," opening with a guitar line like fingernails on the chalkboard and jumping from easy listening to reggae before bursting out of nowhere into an a capella bridge about destroying the Mothership. "Sic Duck" rolls through a minute of unnecessary, dissonant build-up but finally finds its bass heavy, classic rock melody and weaves some quick-fire acoustic guitar work between the song’s Floydian threads. "Waffle House" is a mix-up of rock, funk, rockabilly and zydeco, and "Honkie" is heavy riffing guitar rock with a jazz-lite break. Their attention span is about as long as an eight year-old with ADD and a television remote.

Exhibit B: They play somewhat pretentious music without pretension. In no way are Groovatron cool or hip. They are unabashedly goofy, silly and stupid. "Dixie Blue," is a bluegrass foot-stomper complete with horns, an off-tempo breakdown and cryptic, introspective lyrics that would make Tom Marshall cringe. Purists they are not. They manage to squeeze in lines like "it's all about the Benjamins" and "I pledge allegiance to myself" on the faux funk of "Allegiance," and "Helplessness" is just plain dumb.

Exhibit C: Though silly, stupid and musically schizophrenic, Groovatron are fun — not rock and roll decadence fun, but Sesame Street and birthday cake fun. The same kind of fun that inspires Phish fans to pour over setlists and footnotes for hours on the internet. All of Groovatron's supposed flaws come together to form a band and an album that revels in the uninhibited, childlike joy of laughter and play.

Sure, they're never going to sell a million records unless they learn to rein in their rather juvenile urges to experiment with every genre under the sun; and yes, most mainstream critics will absolutely hate this album; but Groovatron will appeal to its intended audience: jamband fans; the kids who would just now be turning on to Phish if this were 1994 instead of ten years later; the ones who have yet to check their immaturity at the ticket booth. Yes, ladies and gentleman of the jury, Groovatron is a jamband. But they're a pretty darn good one, and at least they're not afraid to admit it.

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