Itís official: comparisons to Pavement are one
of the most useless clichťs of Indie rock reviews. It seems
like these days, any band that plays with tempo, layering, melodies,
and/or records it themselves gets compared to Pavement. I think
itís because as a reviewer you have only a limited verbiage
to evoke a reference point for their readership. And when someone
says ďPavement!Ē, I guess youíre supposed to think of a bunch
of musicians who are so into their music and recording that
theyíre sitting around in a basement recording studio, drinking
beer and playing songs into an 8 track for fun. In other words,
I suspect that people are trying to evoke the imagery of musical
masturbation and experimentation, but in a good and non-pretentious
Me? I donít like Pavement (the last time I saw them in concert,
they were so horrendous that I left after 30 minutes), which
may explain why I find that comparison so annoying, and so ubiquitous.
So how does that little rant play into this review? Well, when
I got the package for the Artichoke CD, every freakiní press
clipping compared them to Pavement. And when I started listening
to the album, I just didnít get that comparison.
So letís start this off right: Artichoke are a band from California.
Apparently a four piece. Iím not sure what comprises the Santa
Monica scene these days, but if Artichoke are any indication,
then Iím thinking itís got the proto-psychedelic meets powerpop
Indie rock thing going on. However, lest you think that Artichokeís
music can be completely contained by the afore-mentioned comparisons,
let me state that they go all over the board musically, and
thatís a good thing.
For instance, the first song, What a weekend ha ha ha,
bears a striking resemblance to Weezerís Suzanne. However
this same song also contains a change of rhythm and off-kilt
vocals that Weezer would never dream of. Likewise, the next
song, Dismayed, starts off like something from Texasís
Deathray Davies, with the quick garage beat and the geeky/sleepy
vocals. Furthermore, you can find several songs that recall
The Pixies circa 1990 (such as Noah, my personal favorite
off the album). However, once I get a little deeper into the
album, I can hear bits that might have come from Sebadoh, and
thereís even one song Abstract Red Adam which has the
hallmarks of the British shoehaze sound of the early 90s.
Nevertheless, despite my comparisons, which suggest wide-ranging
influences, there is a coherence to Artichokeís music. Perhaps
it the consistently strong, happy keyboard bits which are not
necessarily dominant in individual songs, but remain a constant,
low-key, unifying presence throughout the album. More likely
it has something to do with the vocalistsí slightly high-pitched,
slightly-nerdy sound, which of course reminds me of the psychedelic
pop aesthetic one keeps hearing out of Athens, GA, these days.
Of course when youíre dealing with almost any album, there
will be occasional mis-steps. However, despite its 17 song length
Evaporation doesnít have too many. The primary
issue I have comes from the occasional noise/instrumental interludes
which sound like the slightly-sunbaked experiment of someone
with a 4-track recorder and too much time on their hands. Furthermore,
I have to confess that overall I was impressed by the bandís
use of recording technology: the balance of vocals and instruments
seems dead on, and they donít fall victim to any of the
issues which normally plague low budget/lo-fi DIY recording.
On the whole, I like Evaporation: itís a good
little album that grows on you with repeated listenings. Although
theyíre based in California, Iíd like to see Artichoke tour,
and make it out here to Georgia. The strength of the recording
is its energy, which is something Iíd think Artichoke possesses
a great deal of in their live show.