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Published: 2004/12/01
by Katie Mavrich

gListen – Songs From A Random House

Bar/None Records 158
On the opening track of their latest album, gListen, Songs From a Random House sings ‘She loves me, she loves me not. She loves me, she loves me not.’ A little piece of advice to the ‘multitalented’ Steven Swartz – he plays the baritone ukulele, sings, and composes the songs for the New York-based electric-uke quintet – if you keep making music like this, everyone is going to love you not.
Songs From a Random House has already seen its heyday, and it appears to be long gone. They have been around since 1985, and have since done away with the typical guitar, bass, percussion lineup and create music with the aforementioned baritone uke, violin, string bass, mandolin, lap steel guitar, chord organ, and percussion. So it’s odd then, that a band with so much experience, creativity, and ability produced an album that is extremely sloppy. It seems as though they picked up their instruments and decided to head into the studio without writing anything first. Add to that the fact that Swartz’s voice fluctuates from sounding like a dying Morrissey to evoking the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, and the result is one big mess.
In addition to writing sub-par lyrics and melodies, Songs From a Random House even butchered "I Feel Love," a Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder cover that closes gListen. On the upside, they do traverse a mix of musical genres at once — pop, folk, classic rock, and even a bit of swing thrown in for good measure. The problem seems to be that the band is past its prime, and without a lot of work, there’s no turning back. gListen is enough to put you to sleep, even if you’ve just downed three espressos. And that’s if you can make it past the first few songs on the album without turning it off first.

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