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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 way.

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.

Related Links:
  Artichoke's website, where you can order the album, if you are so inclined.  

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