Days in the Wake by Palace Brothers

Daysinthewake_albumcoverPalace Brothers
Days in the Wake
1994; Drag City

My Rating: 10/10
I will admit that when I bought this album, the purchasing decision was based purely on hype and a burgeoning thirst for hipster credibility in my 15 year-old heart. It was the fall of 1994, and I was pretty new to my local music heritage, but all the talk around town was about this fella Will Oldham and the crazy/weird hillbilly music he was making under the moniker Palace Brothers. I think I recognized the record from the Slamdek Distribution Catalog, and I bought it on a whim on my way home from school one day, at ear X-tacy of course.

I wasn’t 100 feet down the street when someone shouted out to me: “Great fucking record!!!” It was the first and only time I have ever been congratulated and formally recognized for my impeccable taste in music. It also gives you an idea that, in Louisville, in the mid-90’s, Palace Brothers were the second coming.

And I’m not one to foster backlash just because I bought this record for the wrong reasons. The Lord works in mysterious ways, after all. Fifteen years and several thousand albums later, I would still count this record among my top 20 at least. And not only that, I would say that it’s a landmark in the way that Spiderland or Slanted & Enchanted or If You’re Feeling Sinister or OK Computer is. Brilliant, mysterious, haunting, mind-blowing, all of these word describe these records, and Days in the Wake no less.

As for mystery, Days in the Wake is probably one of the most mysterious records in the history of popular music. Although Will Oldham has subsequently become something of an indie icon, in 1994, he had one other LP, a few 7″ records, and a role in an obscure indie film under his belt. All we really knew was that he was some sort of child prodigy, and that he was probably the dude in the picture on the album cover.

As for the songs themselves, well, that’s where the magic starts. Recorded on what sounds like a jambox or some other cheap voice recording device, these ten songs are captured completely off-the-cuff, warts, finger swipes, voice cracks, and all. Was it a clever ploy by Oldham to somehow pull off something “authentic?” Not everyone was  making this kind of music back then, after all, and Palace Brothers’ first LP, There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You, didn’t exactly make a splash.

The bottom line is we’ll never know. What I can tell you though, is that whether or not it was a clever gimmick, it works. There is a backwoods, lonesome magic that shines through here, an emotional directness that sets a new standard for just what we expect from confessional pop music. To put it simply, if Oldham is trying to trick us into thinking that he’s the real deal, he does a damn good job of it. (And based on the quality of his subsequent output, and the emotional and artistic cohesion of his entire catalogue, I think Oldham is just an artist that found his voice here.)

I’ve often dreamed of seeing an “electric” version of this record. While Oldham did do a re-boot of some of these tunes on Sings Greatest Palace Music, those versions were often a little bit hokey (see the updated version of “I Am A Cinematographer”).  What about a full-on rock version of “Pushkin,” one of the most powerful tunes Oldham has ever recorded? Or the same for “No More Workhorse Blues?” Nevermind all that. The magic Oldham captures here is once in a lifetime type stuff. It is his own Nebraska, a testament to a moment in time that he could very easily update but, in all honesty, it’s probably best he doesn’t. Leave that to the tributes, right?

The aforementioned “Pushkin” and “Workhorse” are highlights, as are  “(Thou) Without Partner” and “I am a Cinematographer.” And the other songs are all great too. But Days in the Wake, ultimately, is not the kind of thing I want to describe to you, because you should really hear it for yourself. It’s an experience that can’t be anymore directly communicated than by listening to the record itself. So go out and get yourself a copy, on vinyl, if you don’t already have one, and give this here cinematographer a look-see.

Have you heard Days in the Wake? What do you make of it?

Wilco: Mermaid Avenue Volumes I & II

billy_bragg_mermaid_avenueYou know Woody Guthrie – countercultural icon and arguably the way we got Bob Dylan and every form of pop music that has descended from him. Well, before he died, Woody wrote a whole mess of lyrics that he never got the chance to “musicize.” That’s right, “musicize.” It has to be a real word, but if not, I will offer the first official defintion: to transform a thing or things into music.

Well, back in the late 90’s, one of the old Wood-meister’s descendants, Nora Guthrie, decided that these old lyrics were so good that they deserved to be “musicized.” Don’t know if she considered having Woody’s boy Arlo do it, but for whatever reason, she ended up choosing England’s own Billy Bragg and America’s own Wilco to get the job done right.

You’ll notice from listening to these three records that there appear to be three “musicization” approaches employeed. The first method was to musicize it to sound like Woody actually wrote the tune. The second was to write a more modern tune to accompany Guthrie’s lyrics. The third was to create a synthesis, oftentimes resulting in something completely off-the-wall, other times resulting in something heartbreakingly wonderful.

mermaid2As for the first approach, you’ll find “Walt Whitman’s Niece,” “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” “I Was Born,” and “Ingrid Berman.” There is varying success with this approach. “Whitman” and “Yonder” are both magnificent, but “Ingrid Berman” is just a bit flat. Elsewhere, Jeff Tweedy’s “Remember the Mountain Bed” is gorgeous, perhaps a bit more earnest and long in the verse than Guthrie would have done, but the folk spirit is fully intact, and the melody is sublime.

For the second approach, you get iconic Wilco tune “California Stars” and the fabulous power pop of “Secret of the Sea.” Simliarly, “At My Window Sad and Lonely” plays on Big Star sensibilites with great results. Bragg’s “I Guess I Planted” goes for the shipyard-blues sound, and doesn’t quite register the impact of Wilco’s “second approach” contributions. But Bragg’s “Eisler on the Go” is wonderfully haunting, and  Wilco hits a homer with “Hesitating Beauty” and “One by One.”

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For the third approach, you get the best tracks between the two records. “Birds and Ships,” marvelously handled by angel-voiced Natalie Merchant, is the kind of thing that can reduce a grown man to tears, as the lonely acoustic guitar moves along at mournful pace. “Hoodoo Voodoo” adds a wonderful goofy touch to the proceedings, and “Airline to Heaven” is one of the coolest tracks Wilco ever recorded, somehow encompassing about five different genres into one mind-altering track.

So of 30 tracks between the two volumes, about two-thirds register above sea level on. Of those, there are quite a few great tracks to be had. If I had to condense the two volumes into one essential volume, it would consist of the following tracks:

1. Walt Whitman’s Niece
2. California Stars
3. Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key
4. Birds and Ships
5. Hoodoo Voodoo
6. At My Window Sad And Lonely
7. One By One2000guthrie
8. Eisler on the Go
9. Hesitating Beauty
10. Another Man’s Done Gone
11. The Unwelcome Guest
12. Airline to Heaven
13. I Was Born
14. Secret of the Sea
15. Remember the Mountain Bed

There’s a winning combination. It’s not that the other tracks are bad, but they are forgettable or obnoxious. These fifteen, though, represent one heckuva great job of “musicizing” lyrics. All in all, an extremely notable event in the career of Wilco. Don’t pass up on these tracks!

What tracks does your “one-volume” Mermaid Avenue consist of?


Wilco’s cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen”

9122-big-star-small-worldChoosing to cover an already gorgeous song, especially one as gorgeous as Big Star’s “Thirteen,” may seem like a safe move at first. Taking another point of view, however, there’s a huge potential to “ruin it” for everyone else. Witness: American Idol seasons 1 thru 8. If pressed, I could probably rattle off at least five other cover versions of classic tunes that almost destroy the greatness of the original.

The good news is that Wilco gets it so right that they almost record the definitive version of the song here. Wilco, after all, was bred for songs such as these, sung in the key of midwest kid. While the arrangement does sound a bit like that of BEING THERE’s “The Lonely One,” the joyfully mournful slide guitars are simply perfect. In addition, Wilco slows it down a bit, lending the song a dream-like atmosphere that puts the emphasis in all the right places. I tend to see my own youth in idealized slow motion when I listen to this song.

While I won’t go so far as to say that this cut upstages Big Star’s original, I will say that it does a great job of remaining faithful to the vision of the songwriter, introducing the track to potential new fans, AND bringing a slightly different perspective to the song. When all is said and done, I think that’s what a good cover song should do.

Shout Outs: Ratatat’s LP3

CD book outsideRatatat
LP3
2008; XL Recordings

My Rating: 9/10

Ah, ear candy. This is “neat sound” music, kind of like Four Tet, but Ratatat brings a higher tempo to the mix, and a classic rock ethos. The guitars typically play the vocalist role in this outfit, and “Falcon Jab” gets things off to a good start after a droning introduction with “Shiller.” “Mirando,” the first high point, comes off like Steely Dan mixed with old school Metallica, and like any good instrumental, the music is so lyrical you won’t be missing any vocals.

“Bird Priest” shows that these guys have a penchant for the visual, while  “Shempi” demonstrates that this is a band brimming with ideas, the kind of excellent ideas that gave us those Saturday morning cartoons back in the mid-80’s. One or two tracks  lose me – “Dura” is a little too hip-hop cool inflected. But “Brulee” is an excellent change-up, reaching a bit into reggae, and “Mumtaz Khan” does a decent job with an eastern flavor.

“Gipsy Threat,” though a bit random, does provide an interesting interlude from the record’s standard dynamic,  and “Black Heroes” ends it all in a satisfying way. Overall, not a bad third effort. These guys do make really great “neat sound” music, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself coming back to this one.

Wilco: SKY BLUE SKY (2007)

wilco_skybluesky_loWilco
Sky Blue Sky
2007; Nonesuch Records

My Rating: 10/10

Have you ever bought a record that you listen to once, scratch your head, but back on the shelf for a year, pull out again, and listen to non-stop for the next year? When I first bought SKY BLUE SKY upon its release in 2007, I was immediately disappointed. Sure, A GHOST IS BORN wasn’t great, but there was enough to like about it and I could respect a dip in inspiration following on the heels of the glorious YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT. But by the time SKY BLUE SKY rolled out in 2007, I was ready for WILCO to find their footing and deliver another left-field masterpiece. Instead I discovered what I thought at the time was a band on cruise control.

The thing is, you won’t find anything strikingly revolutionary on SKY BLUE SKY, but that may in fact be the most wonderful thing about this record. It took me selling my copy of this record and then re-buying it to discover that SKY BLUE SKY is in my Wilco Top 3, and when all is said and done, may be right on top. SKY BLUE SKY is the sound of a band arriving. The lineup TWEEDY employs on this record came together shortly after the release of A GHOST IS BORN, and has been with him since. With SKY BLUE SKY, Tweedy makes the boldest statement of his career: “My songs and this band are so strong that I don’t need anything to make a great record but a few microphones and a room big enough for the six of us.”

From the opening, there is something sweet and pastoral about this record. The interplay between Tweedy’s songs and the rest of the band is effortless. Opening with the softly swaying “Either Way”, the band quickly finds the zone with “You Are My Face” and never lets up. “Impossible Germany” is one of the album’s highlights, featuring the best three-guitar interplay of any Wilco record and some of the best I’ve ever heard anywhere. The title track keeps things soft and dreamlike, while “Side with the Seeds” is another album highlight. Thought I hesitate to say it, “Shake It Off” might be the album’s low point, although even it feels integral to the record’s progression.

The album’s second half features another handful of soft, dreamy tunes in “Please Be Patient With Me,” “Leave Me,” and closer “On and On and On.” “What Light” is as sunny and optimistic a song as you’re likely to hear from Tweedy, while “Walken” and “Hate It Here” lend a little more drama to the album’s second half.

All in all, it’s understandable why many people walked from SKY BLUE SKY after its initial release, but in my view there is no other record so deserving of a second chance. I love this record, and given enough time, so will you.

Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (2004)


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Wilco
A Ghost Is Born
2004; Nonesuch Records

My Rating: 6/10

I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record, but I just think this way. To me, Wilco’s recording career shares a strange correlation with Radiohead’s. That continues with their fifth album, A GHOST IS BORN. If YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT was WILCO’s KID A, then yes, this is WILCO’s AMNESIAC. It’s not just that GHOST’s experimentalism seems a bit tried after the resounding avant masterpiece YHF – it’s that, at this point, the band seems to be grasping for great ideas rather than letting the joy of making music lead to inspiration.

That being said, I do want to say that A GHOST IS BORN contains some startlingly great songs. “Muzzle of Bees,” “Company in My Back,” “The Late Greats” – all of these have become live staples for Wilco and for good reason. They are fantastic songs. Similarly, “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” is an adventurous kraut-rock experiment that just rules. It’s one of my favorite Wilco tracks, even at close to eleven minutes. However, there are an equal number of disappointments. “At Least That’s What You Said” is the worst opener in Wilco’s catalog, and “Hell Is Chrome” just drags a little too much. And “Handshake Drugs”, though certainly a highlight in Wilco’s catalogue, is a little too cleaned up here compared to the earlier, superior version on the MORE LIKE THE MOON EP.

Additionally, A GHOST IS BORN contains what is probably the low point in Wilco’s career, the 2-minute song plus 11 minutes of white noise, the inexplicable no matter how hard you try to spin it as art, “Less Than You Think.” The song itself doesn’t even warrant inclusion, and its only redeeming quality may be that it allowed Tweedy to get a few records full of completely obtuse avant-garde nonsense out of his system. But that’s as harsh as I’m going to be on Wilco, band that I love. Regardless of what you could say about this, it is still a WILCO record, and that fact alone makes it enjoyable.

A GHOST IS BORN represents WILCO’s attempt to top itself once again. Given that, it’s daunting to best a masterpiece. Five albums into a stellar career, it became apparent that they were trying a little too hard to reinvent themselves this time around. Being a WILCO record it contains several great songs, but overall GHOST comes off sounding like the band’s mid-life crisis. Thank God they managed to come out of it alive, for there were brighter horizons awaiting the band.

I recommend A GHOST IS BORN only for WILCO die-hards and completists. Many of GHOST’s tracks can be found in superior form on the live record KICKING TELEVISION.

Tracks:
1. At Least That’s What You Said (3/5)
2. Hell Is Chrome (2.5/5)
3. Spiders (Kidsmoke) (5/5)
4. Muzzle of Bees (5/5)
5. Hummingbird (4/5)
6. Handshake Drugs (3.5/5)
7. Company in My Back (4/5)
8. Wishful Thinking (4/5)
9. I’m a Wheel (2/5)
10. Theologians (2.5/5)
11. Less Than You Think (1/5)
12. The Late Greats (4/5)

Tracks:
1. At Least That’s What You Said (3/5)
2. Hell Is Chrome (2.5/5)
3. Spiders (Kidsmoke) (5/5)
4. Muzzle of Bees (5/5)
5. Hummingbird (4/5)
6. Handshake Drugs (3.5/5)
7. Company in My Back (4/5)
8. Wishful Thinking (4/5)
9. I’m a Wheel (2/5)
10. Theologians (2.5/5)
11. Less Than You Think (1/5)
12. The Late Greats (4/5)

Late Greats: Elliott’s US Songs

31fChZLICKL._SL500_AA240_Elliott
US Songs
1999; Revelation Records

My Rating: 9/10

When US SONGS was released in 1998, ELLIOTT was one of the most hyped bands in Louisville’s all ages scene. Forming around ex-Falling Forward frontman Chris Higdon, the band had previously released one magnificent two-song 7″ and made several increasingly great live appearances around town clad in white and black, performing with the kind of vigor and intensity usually reserved for Olympic athletes. They also represented something entirely refreshing in a scene full of cheesy hardcore and corny pop-punk acts.

With ELLIOTT having gone the way of extinction, the band remains best known for its more atmospheric work on FALSE CATHEDRALS and SONG IN THE AIR. Not to take anything away from those two magnificent records, I’ll always cherish US SONGS as something utterly unique and special above them. It’s not that the musicianship is any better herein – the truth is ELLIOTT occasionally sounds clunky on US SONGS as opposed to the fluid sound of the later records. It’s simply that the ideas overflow on this record, and the band sounds bright and exceedingly unimpressed with itself. And did I mention that this was the band’s only power pop record? When I say power pop, I put the stress on POWER.

The record opens in a burst of energy with the gorgeous “Miracle,” before transitioning to the instrumental “Intro.” What Elliott lacks in musical prowess they make up for in melodic sensibility, and nowhere is that more evident than on “Intro.” The track develops around a simple, slightly distorted guitar line, as pretty as it is powerful. “The Conversation” builds to a dynamic climax, and “Dionysus Burning” is about as straight forward as you’re going to get on this record. Although this recording of “The Watermark High” is inferior to the early recording found on the band’s In Transit single (featuring first drummer Ben Lord), it nevertheless fits in well with the rest of the record.

“Every Train That Passes” rocks it all mid-tempo fashion, and the driving “Suitcase and Atoms” is a definite highlight. My personal favorite is track 8, the short epic “Second Story Skyscaper.” This is one of those tracks that seems pieced together from various songwriting fragments, but the sum is greater than the parts in this case. “Alchemy as a Rhythm” gets things moving in a hard rock direction again, and features some of Higdon’s best vocals.

“Ten Cent Inquiry” and “Safety Pin Explanation” close the record in minor key fashion, a downer twinge after a mostly bright-eyed record. I suppose it was indicative of the direction Elliott was to take. Within the next year or so they would release a few more singles of a decidedly less sunny sound, and by the time FALSE CATHEDRALS hit in 2001, the band was completely transformed into the atmospheric emo champions of common renown.

But as I said before, the Elliott of US SONGS is the Elliott I will always remember as the greatest incarnation. What this band could do with a few guitar chords and a lot of enthusiasm still blows me away. If you’ve never heard this first LP from the seminal Louisville band, or if you wrote Elliott off after hearing their later work, give US SONGS a chance.

Have you heard US SONGS? What’s your opinion?

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

JUNE 2009 IS WILCO MONTH AT SWEET GEORGIA BREEZES. WE’LL BE COVERING THE BAND’S RECORDED OUTPUT AND HITTING ON SOME OTHER THINGS ABOUTTHIS GREAT AMERICAN BAND.

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Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2001; Nonesuch Records

My Rating: 10/10

If SUMMERTEETH is Wilco’s OK COMPUTER, then YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT is Wilco’s KID A. On SUMMERTEETH, WILCO proved themselves to be capable of pushing the envelope in just about any direction, but it seems that wasn’t enough for Tweedy. Whereas the band built symphonies out of songs on SUMMERTEETH, on YHF they take the tracks, demolish them, pick up the pieces, and glue them back together into staggering postmodern masterpieces. The album opens with “I am trying to break your heart”, a left-field folk song that seems to meander drunkenly down a city street. It’s as clear a signal as the band can send that you are in for something completely different on this record, and yet the song somehow manages to grab you and pull you into Wilco’s brave new world.

“Kamera” backs it up with a catchy, even-keeled, mid-tempo groover recalling jazz-rockers Steely Dan, only to descend into the most experimental piece on the record, “Radio Cure.” While it’s my opinion that “Radio Cure” is only essential in the way “Fitter Happier” is essential to Radiohead’s OK COMUTER, it could be argued that this is the record’s defining moment. When Tweedy howls, “Distance has no way of making love understandable”, he sucks you right into the album’s narrative, a meditation on communication and the distance between you and me.

“War on War” gets things moving again, and “Jesus etc.” delivers the knock-out blow. Though written before September 11th, 2001, the song’s lyrical imagery of “tall-buildings shaking” and “voices singing sad sad songs” seems to neatly summarize the myriad national sentiments in the days following the attacks. Call it a historical accident, but Tweedy’s words, coupled with the album’s dual-structural cover art, lends the record a prophetic tone, especially when “Jesus” is followed by “Ashes of American Flags.” “Ashes” is apparently the third in a four part cycle of deconstructed folk songs, seemingly pushing ahead without a tempo, random instruments firing from every corner. “Heavy Metal Drummer” lightens things up a bit, recalling the midwestern nostalgia of BEING THERE, and “I’m the Man Who Loves You” even brings a little brass back into the mix.

“Pot Kettle Black”, though great, comes off with the least impact, while “Poor Places” is the last (and best) in the previously mentioned song cycle. As “Poor Places” drifts into ambient HAM radio transmissions, you start to see that this record is all about communication, about reaching out for something to hold onto in the darkness. The album ends with “Reservations”, a track that sharply contrasts the deadpan album opener with Tweedy’s complete emotional buy-in. Tweedy sings “I’ve got reservations about so many things but not about you” with such direct abandon that it seems as if the whole thing has been a complete transformation.

YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT is Wilco’s avant-garde masterpiece, and rightfully deserves a place in the collection of any fan of good music. While not everyone will find everything here appealing, it nevertheless is one of the first great records of the 21st century.

Wilco: Summerteeth (1999)

JUNE 2009 IS WILCO MONTH AT SWEET GEORGIA BREEZES. WE’LL BE COVERING THE BAND’S RECORDED OUTPUT AND HITTING ON SOME OTHER THINGS ABOUTTHIS GREAT AMERICAN BAND.

summerteeth

Wilco
Summerteeth
1999; Reprise Records

My Rating: 9/10

SUMMERTEETH was the WILCO album I knew before I knew WILCO. It’s hard for SUMMERTEETH not to at least register in some way in your consciousness when you catch a glimpse of the record’s cover. It’s just one of the stangest images you’ve ever seen, and is the best of Wilco’s generally pretty great album covers yet. Not to mention that title – just what the heck are SUMMERTEETH? I’ve heard explanations, but I’ve never quite figured out the significance of the title here. Nevertheless, SUMMERTEETH is the record where Wilco began to venture out of the confines of alt-country. Whereas on BEING THERE they looked for influences from the outside to drag into the alt-country equation, on SUMMERTEETH you get the sense that they are completely trying to break the mold and expand into other forms of American music.

PHIL SPECTOR’s Wall of Sound dynamics seem to be a strong influence on tracks like “A Shot in the Arm” and “I’m Always In Love”, and there’s plenty of nods to the Beach Boys and Big Star. But it’s on darker, more unconventional tracks like “She’s A Jar” and “Via Chicago” that the band starts to find its own way ahead, hinting at the unorthodox song structures and circular lyricism employed on YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT. “How To Fight Loneliness”, “When You Wake Up Feeling Old”, and the title track are also very worthy additions to the Wilco canon, and the album rounds off nicely with “In A Future Age.”

THE FINAL ANALYSIS: SUMMERTEETH is right up there with the best of Wilco’s work, but coming between the mountains of BEING THERE and YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT in the band’s catalog robs it of a little glory. Still, it’s a must have for any Wilco fan.

What’s your opinion of SUMMERTEETH?

Late Greats: Evergreen’s debut LP

trr64Growing up in Louisville in the early 90’s, Evergreen was one of the first “local” bands I heard of. For some reason, all of the skater kids in my suburban middle school were issued Evergreen t-shirts. Fast forward to my freshman year in high school and I get my first Evergreen record, the 5 song 7″ record the band released in 1992 on Self Destruct Records. With a recorded output that spanned 13 songs, “old” Evergreen were the local spastic punk overlords of Louisville’s all ages scene. That was a great band, and I’m happy to know that those thirteen great tracks will be getting the digital treatment soon from Noise Pollution Records.

The subject of this review, however, is not a record by “old” Evergreen. The subject of this review is the sole LP from the “new” Evergreen. But don’t rush to any Van Halen vs. Van Hagar style judgments here. It may indeed be a different band under the same name, but it is nonetheless a different GREAT band under the same name.

Featuring the original lineup’s Tim Ruth on guitar and Troy Cox on bass, the band at this point had grown out of the all ages scene and into the dive bar scene. With the addition of former Undermine frontman Sean McLaughlin and Slint drummer Britt Walford, the new lineup was a local supergroup of sorts, slowing it down and sexing it up just enough to sound like a throwback to the Rolling Stones of the mid-70’s.

At the time, this was one of the most anticipated local releases in years. I can still remember a friend’s older sister praising the band and dreaming about a full-length record back in ’94 or so. It’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The album kicks off with “Fairlane,” a blazing mid-tempo riffer that introduces and typifies the sound of the record: meat-and-potatoes hard rock in the vein of a lo-fi AC/DC. “Petting the Beast” speeds things back up to punk speed, before “Solar Song” drops like an atomic bomb in the middle of side one. No other song so demonstrates the raw power of this band. While the record IS wildly imaginative, it doesn’t waste a note on anything that comes close to resembling a frill. It’s a pure and direct POWER record, and it sounds as live as a band can in the studio.

“Whip Cream Bottle” and “Plastic Bag” head straight into strong grooves, setting the stage for the record’s centerpiece, “Klark Kent.” Registering for the first two and a half minutes somewhere in proto-punk territory, the song speeds into a brick wall and rides a slow groove into oblivion.

Unfortunately, the band seems to have packed its most powerful songs into the records first side, leaving side two to retreads (“Zoom Zoom” and “Glass Highway”), cryptic alley rock (“Sweet Jane”), and curious excursions (“New York City” and “Coyote”). It’s not that the second half is BAD – after all, this is among my top 10 Louisville full-lengths. It’s just that the focus the band pulled off on side one loses cohesion, and an already great record suffers for it. Still, for the record, I do really like side two as well, and the record is and will always be what it is.

What made both “old” and “new” Evergreen great was undoubtedly the guitar work of Tim Ruth. Like any great guitarist, he had his own unique style that added a special touch to the songs and could imbue otherwise straightforward songs with brilliant life. Sadly, the band never seemed to be able to completely pull its act together, and a follow-up was never delivered. If you look really hard in the right circles, you can find demos and live tracks that hint at what a follow-up may have sounded like. But this one record is all we’ll probably ever get from this Louisville legend.