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Reviews > CDs

Published: 2006/03/15
by Jesse Jarnow

Holding the Bag – Reviews of Home at Last, Lazlo Hollyfeld, The Love X Nowhere, Monkey Monkey, Sugarfree Allstars

Holding the Bag: March 2006
Wampus Room – Home at Last
"The purpose of this life is love and harmony, the ecstasy, the unity that was meant to be," Home at Last sings on "Tiny Pearl," atop a burbling blend of lite fretless bass, sparse keys, and a kinda cool drum machine beat. The song sails off into a brief electro-pop jam, bolstered by acoustic guitar. With pretensions towards Social Consciousness (love and harmony, remember?), on "Richmond Train," Home at Last also rhyme "Taliban" with "White House lawn" (as in, they are both places where "there is love"). The band’s grooves are a half-breed of Paul Simon’s African-informed shimmies and the Dave Matthews Band’s stadium feel-goodery, with a touch of contemporary R & B and smart electronics. Wampus Room is pleasant enough, with a rhythmic complexity that informs even its most banal songs. Easy going to a fault, Home at Last comes with a muted sense of adventure that always seems to lean towards the safe, lyrically and musically. (Also, Murph from Dinosaur Jr. had the one-name claimed a bit before you did…) Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Repetition is a form of change.’ More info…
The Pacer EP – Lazlo Hollyfeld
Plucking their name from Real Genius’s glorious weirdo of the dormitory steam tunnel, upstate New York’s Lazlo Hollyfeld carve a fine niche for themselves in the post-Tortoise sector of the jamband world. With no credited band members cramming five lush tunes onto their well-paced Pacer EP, the Hollyfelds’ keyboard attack is lush and meticulous, like Sound Tribe Sector 9 without the crystals. If there’s a guitarist, he assimilates so cleanly into the blend that he frequently just sounds like another chiming keyboard. Where the opening ‘Everything You Know is Gone’ chimes like virtual clockwork, ‘Six Months Later’ grinds with the frictions of human energies, perhaps the only tune on the disc to sound like a live band. With lo-fi geometrics adorning the cover, and the idea of brevity close at hand, Lazlo Hollyfeld could cross that rare bridge between hippie and hipster. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘What are you really thinking about just now?’ More info…
Odyssey – The Love X Nowhere
With a rich, swampy production reminiscent of Daniel Lanois, the Bay Area’s The Love X Nowhere have found themselves a unique sound. Gabriel Isis’s guitar sustains in long, trilling notes that disintegrate with quiet thrill beneath Brett Chulada’s vocals. Keyboardist (and brother) Michael Chulada keeps the sound twinkling and swirling, if occasionally too synthetic. If the quintet has a principle problem over their six song mini-album it is that their songs have not yet escaped the swamp. They hover in the murk like unformed arena rockers yearning to burble free, as if Broken Social Scene had listened to too much John Mellencamp. Chulada’s voice and melodies are far from unique, but with more emphasis on them, they might not need to be. Songs driven by cyclical guitar beauty like "Sympathy" are almost there already. More drama and ecstasy would serve TLXN well. Oblique Strategies sez: "Is it finished?" More info…
Monkey – Monkey Monkey
Gotta hand it to Monkey Monkey (or maybe they’re just singular Monkey) for a thoroughly confusing album spine. Either way, the North Dakota’s band isn’t confusing in the least. In fact, it’s meticulously ordered jazz-pop in the God Street Wine/Steely Dan tradition. There’s some jamband goodness thrown into the blender, too — a little bit of polka spices up "Cleveland Shipyards," while something that can only be described as a bluegrass harmony runs high and lonesome beneath the chorus to "Circus Train." Songwriter Seth Tarkum shows promise as a lyricist, evoking the existential boredom of summer jobs of "Countering Again," hoping his life will add up to more. He’s not there yet, but — with a few more monkeys — he could be. Oblique Strategies sez: "Ghost echoes." More info…

Dos Machos! – Sugar Free Allstars
The Sugar Free Allstars have a sense of humor going for them. Which is nice. "Standing in line at the Widespread show, she’ll hit the ATM, get her some dough," Chris Wiser sings on "Buddhist in a Beemer," "out in the parking lot, it’s all so plain, she’ll smoke a little pot, but she prefers cocaine." What drives home the punchline, though, is that the Allstars sound a bit like, y’know, Panic — or at least, not far enough away from them claim ironic distance. Essentially a duo of keyboardist/vocalist Wiser and drummer Rob "Dr. Rock" Martin, the pair’s inside jokes — which also include numbers like "Cover Band Boyfriend" — infiltrate every facet of the band. "Bender To Ender" is a typically playful organ groove with crypto-funny lyrics that would recall Zappa if not for their ground-level party observations and lack of snark. The Sugar Free Allstars seem thoroughly comfortable with themselves. If not particularly original, they are likely a solid and entertaining live act (with plenty of lines seemed designed for audiences to cheer for). And it booms as clear as sugar free hippie music. Oblique Strategies sez: "You are an engineer." More info…

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