Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
Odd, exploratory album...not without it's charms...
on October 31, 2012
The continual frustration for me, when it comes to Peter Buck's side projects, is that he tends to surround himself with relatively mediocre talents: Competent journeymen with little character. Buck isn't the most technically gifted musician, but has been proven to be a resourceful, tasteful contributor who can elevate the proceedings substantially when working with strong, dynamic collaborators. And what band exemplifies the "greater than the sum of their parts" axiom more than REM?
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.