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Saddle Creek 50

various artists

Saddle Creek Records

In celebration of their 50th issuing, Creek comes forth with a 2-CD compilation that matches an oldie with a newie -- not a bad idea for bringing along the uninitiated and curious, while sating the hunger of those who've been there all along. The cherry-picking is well-done, for the most part. Here's the rundown of the new, unreleased stuff.

The Faint -- "Take me to the Hospital" -- sounds like a disco number because it is a disco number. An obvious stab at a sing-a-long clap-along rant, which means it's lyrically stupid, but if you're listening to the words you're not dancing and you're missing the whole point. Hip-swinging, head-bobbing mindless fun.

Now It's Overhead -- "Dark Cycle" -- A forgetful stop-start-staggering droner that's more about building atmosphere than building a song, thanks to a flat-line melody. More music, less rhythm, please.

Rilo Kiley -- "Jenny, You're Barely Alive" -- I still say she'll be first to break through to FM, or jump ship. This shiny ex-TV star will always sound like a Jenny Toomey incarnate but with better hooks. And everyone loves a good hook, don't they? Note to producer: Leave her voice alone.

Cursive -- "Nonsense" -- From chaos, order? Oh yeah. Cursive's strength has always been its contrasts -- distortion vs crisp rhythms, awkward melodies vs. Tim Kasher's worrisome cooing. Let the battle begin.

Son, Ambulance -- "The Moral of Rosa, Parolee" -- Son, Ambulance's Joe Knapp is probably crazy. He's also the forgotten genius of Saddle Creek. His music is all over the place, his Kermit-the-frog voice leans dangerously close to the edge. And I can't stop listening to it. The best song from either disc. Will he ever be discovered?

Desaparecidos -- "Popn' Off at the F" -- The conscience of Saddle Creek? Someone's gotta do it. Conor never sounded so screechy beneath the grating cha-cha. I'm sure whatever he's saying is relevant, if I only could understand him. Is anyone listening to the words, anyway?

The Good Life -- "Aftercrash" -- The kinder, gentler Tim Kasher brings things down a bit with an endearing look into his psyche. No matter that he's asking you to drag his body from the constant car crash and pick out the broken glass. "Hello? Richard Young?"

Azure Ray -- "Beautiful Things Can Come from the Dark" -- The usual soft-as-a-lily treatment from the Hush Sisters. Lots of strings, acoustic fingering and no drums make this Lullaby for the Slacking Class. Still, you can't beat those harmonies.

Sorry About Dresden --- "People Have Parties" -- The least pretentious of the bunch, SAD is always more interested in getting you to sing along than changing the world, which is all right with me.

Mayday -- "Pond Love" -- Ted Polecat croons and twangs like a long lost member of The Band, complete with banjo and honky-tonk pee-ann-ah. I don't miss that Lullaby outfit one bit.

Bright Eyes -- "One Foot In Front of the Other" -- It's just like him to hog the spotlight by closing the disc with the best song he's written (yet). Oberst is at his best when he isn't trying to make huge gestures. His new style involves fewer, better-selected words and simpler arrangements. Plus, his newfound political conscience gives him something to sing about other than his broken rockstar heart.

Also included are 45 "weekly movies" from the label's Web site -- an interesting look inside the secretive world of Saddle Creek.

back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted May 9, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Rating: Yes

Obligatory pull-quote: "Not a bad idea for bringing along the uninitiated and curious, while sating the hunger of those who've been there all along."