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Recording:
  Something Must Be Transmitted Somehow  
 
Artist:
  The Eskimos  
 
Label:
  Tell Me Later  
 
Release Date:
  28.January.2003  
 
Reviewed by:
  Tracers  
         
 
Rating:
   
         
 
Review:
 

The Eskimos are an Atlanta/Athens band who have the distinction of being one of the few bands who have managed to turn my opinion around. Normally if I like a band, I like them from the start; similarly, if I donít like a band at first, then I wonít like them. However, despite a very unpromising concert in 2001, after seeing them a couple more times, and upon recommendations from some of my friends, Iíve come around and started to get The Eskimos.

Based on these newfound live shows, I was looking forward to getting a copy of their new album. Upon first listen, though, I thought it something of a mixed bag. So I put it away while I tried to figure out why some parts bothered me. I mean, normally I really like your average 4 piece rock band of guitars, bass and drums (with a few keyboard bits throw in). And, thereís nothing bad about the musicianship of The Eskimos as a whole; you can tell that all four members are quite talented and know what theyíre doing. Furthermore, the recording in and or itself is quite good because The Eskimos donít suffer from the many problems you normally hear on self-produced albums. Still, I didnít like parts of this album and I finally came to the conclusion that the amalgamation of the two general types of songs on Something Must be Transmitted Somehow didnít work.

Specifically there are the exceedingly psychedelic short song interludes which are interspersed throughout the album. These are generally less than a minute long and mainly contain elements like vocal samples, choral singalongs, or what sounds like 4 track, roughly recorded translations of ideas. Some people might like this or think it adds to the mood; however these song snippets donít seem to keep with the tenor of the other songs.

Still even my feelings on the rest of the songs as a whole are mixed: I like some of the songs a lot whereas I donít care for others. And although the writing duties are primarily split between guitarists Drew Sinclair and Dave Weiglein, itís odd how I donít seem to particularly favor one over the other. Instead, my complaints arenít necessarily about the lyrics or melody of the individual songs, but rather about the arrangement or recording of the numbers. For instance, Satellite Blues calls the listner back to the slowness of the opening number, while the distortingly high vocals at times take me aback, and remind to me of an early 70s power ballad, or perhaps The Who circa Tommy.

Likewise, Sadie Maybe easily begins in the same marching cadence as some of the good songs; however when the band hits the bridge, they add a theremin-like effect that doesnít work, especially since they add in some whispered vocals. Or thereís the case where a nice harder rocking song (The Waves and the Rays) suddenly contain a keyboard run that just demands to be heard at a laser light showÖ So, as you can see, itís not the music itself which bothers me at times, itís the perceivedÖaffectation. Then again, I can see where these choices might convey exactly what the band intends, even if I donít necessarily get it.

Still, I have to admit that for every song that doesnít work for me, thereís another one which does. For instance, Can You Hear Me starts off as a nice number which reminds me of Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces. Itís quite catchy and bouncy, and even the vocal falsetto works well in this context. Similarly, The Pills is another clean nugget of slightly psychedelic, happy pop. I particularly like it when the orchestral production and effects kick in during the chorus: it goes against the generally clean production of the rest of the album, but Iíve always been the kind of person to like echo and tremolo, you know? Finally, the best song on the album, in my opinion, is The Rodgering. Whereas the whole of Something Must be Transmitted Somehow tends to recalls the late 60s or early 70s in its influences, this song seems to be fairly straightforward 90s Indie Rock. In fact, the last time I saw The Eskimos, this was the song that stuck in my mind and lead to my comparisons with Ashley Stove and Built to Spill. However, after listening to the entire album, I donít think my above comparison is particularly valid; instead, Iíd suggest that The Eskimos remind me more of a male-led Bettie Serveert circa Palomine.

So what to make of it all? Songwise, the album is fairly strong. And while I think there are flaws in some of the recording choices, I can see that these selections might be something which others like and which the band intends. Furthermore, you can definitely say that The Eskimos donít sound exactly like anything else Iíve heard recently, and thatís a good thing in my book. Lastly, Iíve heard that this release is going to be re-released by Brilliante Records out of Chicago. According to the band, the new version of this album will have some new material, and will be remastered. I suspect that this new release will be an improvement over the copy I have. Nevertheless, if it that doesnít happen, I remain a convert to The Eskimosí live sound and look forward to seeing what they have to offer in the future.

 
         
 
Related Links:
  An enjoyable show by The Eskimos.  
         

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