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LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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First solo LP by none other than former REM guitarist & friend Peter Buck. Believe it or not, released on vinyl only by Mississippi Records (No CD or download available anywhere)... & it gets weirder. This LP was cut pure analogue - straight from tape to disc. A real old fashioned freak out record filled with Stooges like crunchy guitar riffs, strange atmospheric sounds, far out dark lyrics & some catchy pop hooks here & there. Peter & various friends you've probably heard of gathered at Type Foundry Studio here in Portland & laid out this record fast & furious. A real madcap journey of a record put together with nothing but love & a sense of immediacy. Peter & friends are taking things back to a simpler time when you could walk down to your local record shop/label & say, ''hey, check out my new record...you wanna put it out?'' We said, ''Sure!'' Straight from the heart - here tis'. Limited edition LP not to be missed. Limited edition of 2,000.
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The album careens wildly through many genres and influences. He recalls his acoustic REM days on the beautiful "Some Kind of Velvet Sunday Morning", and delivers some great garage rock rave-ups (10 Million BC, Give Me Back My Wig, Vaso Loco). We also get pure blues (which REM never much dabbled in) with "Hard Old World". My favorite tracks are the more expermental ones like the Syd Barrett influenced "Travel Without Arriving" and the reverb drenched "Nothing Matters". The instrumental "Migraine" is also very psycedelic. He closes the album with "Im Alive", a rocker that sums up the whole feeling, tone, and attitude of the album. He exclaims he is "breathing clean fresh air", "doing my thing, playing my songs", "the way I like it is the way it is". YOU GO PETER !!! Lenney Kaye delivers one helluva blistering guitar solo to end this awesome record.
I was lucky enough to get one of the last 2 copies my local Independent record store had. The vinyl pressing is regular weight, but clean and spectacular. There was a minor bit of static in the a few of the dead spaces between tracks on Side 1, but it goes away once the music starts. Otherwise the pressing is very quiet (no ticks or pops), dynamic and well.... ANALOG. With this album Peter Buck has made buying vinyl cool and fun again. I wish more artists would follow his lead.
The album has a dark feel to it. Definitely weird. Some songs could fit in an REM album, others are bluesy and gritty, and some are very experimental. I am reminded by the songs on dead letter office where they are recording stuff at 3 AM after drinking too much.
Lots of guests on this album including Mike Mills and Bill Berry. If you are a hardcore REM fan, you will love this. If you are a casual REM fan, this may not be your cup of tea.
My fear for this platter was that it was just gonna be kind of an insular bro-jam, with Buck surrounded by cronies and yes-men who don't really push him. Thankfully, while this album doesn't scale any particularly great heights, it does not affirm my worst fears, either. It's obviously something not conceived as great art, but just a fun, low-pressure/low-expectations outlet for a dude just starting to test the waters.
The overall tone is pretty gritty, '60s garage ... melody is in relatively short supply. But what perks the ears are cool experimental digressions: Some movingly stark acoustic moments, an odd collage piece, and surprisingly solid songwriting. Buck's singing won't win any awards, but it is mixed quite low and blends nicely. It does the job. The sound and vibe of the record as a whole is impressive and intriguing: Thick, warm, and thumpy. A few other singers liven things up and keep the album from being too monochromatic. While I've never been a big Sleater-Kinney fan, and Corin Tucker's one (surprisingly Stipe-ish) vocal won't win me over, it's a pleasant change.
The enclosed insert doesn't list contributors' last names, which is frustrating, but it's clear some REM buddies are here...along with some folks well-known on the Seattle/Portland scene--including some of the journeymen alluded to above. I can't remember the last time Bill Berry set foot in a studio, so that's kinda cool. Lenny Kaye's on board for a bit, too.
So, what can I tell you? This is clearly a project born out of fun, not meant as a major statement. From listening to it, it seems like Buck is relieved to be free of the massive expectations which greeted each REM record and just monkey around in a studio with some chums. I think he was right to make this a limited release, as it is a willfully minor record. But fans will find a fair amount of things to enjoy here...
PS -- Probably the single best thing about this release is that it is a limited-edition, vinyl-only title, that is intended to be sold mainly by independent record stores. Buck, a relentless collector and enthusiast, wants you to go to your local shops and either look for it on the racks or ask for it. That's what I did. While Amazon was able to get a few copies from a distributor, please consider supporting local independent retail and helping realize Peter's vision.
PPS -- Anecdotal evidence suggests that Amazon took a lot of pre-orders on this and didn't ship it to many of those people. Boooooo...support your local indie shop.