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Recording:
  Live 2003  
 
Artist:
  Saturday Looks Good to Me  
 
Label:
  self-released  
 
Release Date:
  2003  
 
Reviewed by:
  Tracers  
         
 
Rating:
   
         
 
Review:
 

In my previous review, I came down pretty hard on Michigan band Saturday Looks Good to Me. Although I liked some of the songs, the arrangements and production on All Your Summer Songs isolated the music, stripping it of much of the meaning and intensity that I expect on an album. However, at that same concert where I purchased the album, I also picked up the other offering from the band: a compilation of live and demo tracks which Saturday Looks Good to Me was marketing as their summer tour CD. After buying it, I hadnít played it, mainly because I was so disappointed in the previous album. Still, very recently, I found myself driving some 500 miles a week and I needed new music. So I grudgingly picked up the Live 2003 disk and put it in my car, and pushed playÖ

On my first listen I was taken aback by the sound quality issues with the album. The variety of live tracks and demos all had different levels and mixes. In fact, one of my favorite songs, I Wish I Could Cry (off their out of print, first album), is marred by levels of microphone feedback that threaten to overwhelm the song. Likewise, the vocals on Alcohol are almost unintelligible because they are so soft in the recording. Furthermore, the radio interludes off local Ann Arbor radio station WCBN, while cute, distracted from the music and seemed to be a bit off. However as a reflection of where the band is at in 2003 and with the somewhat muddling sound qualities at many live venues, these drawbacks are not a fundamental flaw, but rather merely a challenge.

But once I got over the technical details, I was more or less immediately charmed by the music itself. Without the overwhelming production and with the drive of a live performance, songs like Underwater Heartbeat, Meet Me By the Water and Last Hour lose the slightly fey tone of All Your Summer Songs. Even though the first two retain the female vocalist, in a live setting, her voice is no longer rarefied or cloying but instead forceful and driving. Furthermore, the clever lyrical wordplay comes to the forefront and makes me appreciate Fred Thomasís songwriting skill even more. For instance, previously, I had somehow managed to miss that the chorus of Meet Me By the Water including the extremely funny line "Dance with me, beneath the circuitry" in addition to a sly reference to The Raincoats. Similarly, this rendition of Last Hour includes Thomasís description of the antecedent for the song (which get laughs not only from the crowd, but myself as well), and that helps to understand the story of the music. Furthermore, like on the other songs, Last Hour too manages to take on a charm and strength missing from the album version. I get shivers every time Thomas sings (in a slightly off key drawl), "You've got something on your mind that youíre trying to hide." Itís a beautifully intense moment that seems so simple when written down and yet is so evocative in the context of the music.

Much like Last Hour, Typing (recorded in the studio at WCBM) comes complete with a story behind it. However, unlike the album version, this time the song is song by Thomas himself, which adds to the quality of the music. I understand that he doesnít have a traditionally beautiful voice. Itís a bit scratchy at times and has a somewhat disturbing tendency to wander off key. However when he sings his own songs, he gives them a powerful emotional hook which makes me overlook the imperfections of the performance. So Typing, which was one of my least favorite songs on All Your Summer Songs, quickly became one of my favorites on Live 2003.

Of course, my favorite song on Live 2003 is also the song that was my favorite on All Your Summer Songs, although here it's called Invisible Harmony instead of The Sun Doesnít Want to Shine, and itís present in a demo version. From the first stuttering beginning (reminiscent of The Rock*a*Teensí Freedom Puff), the song has a lo-fi tone that was completely drowned out on the album version. In this stripped down arrangement, with the prominent backing vocals, Invisible Harmony becomes a melancholy lament of a broken relationship which includes the line, "And it won't take you as long as you think to forget about me." It's odd to think of such a slow-paced, almost somber song as a sing-along. However, every time this on comes up on the CD Player, without ever meaning to do it, I find myself crooning along with Thomas, almost choked up by the rawness of the track.

I suppose itís not surprising that I strongly prefer Live 2003 to All Your Summer Songs. In general, I like concerts as opposed to albums. And I think that, with only a few exceptions, lo-fi echo-y recording provides better musical fidelity than produced layers of tracks upon tracks. With these changes that are present on Live 2003, Saturday Looks Good to Me has overcome my earlier reservations and become a band which I would certain see and listen to again.

 
         
 
Related Links:
  All Your Summer Songs by Saturday Looks Good to Me  
         

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