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John Larsen


Greyday Productions

There is a sloppy, slacker ennui that hangs over this whole project, accentuating the melodies with I-don't-care assurance. Last time I heard this sort of confident boredom was Beck's first couple albums. There is something to be said for an approach that flaunts purposeful disinterest.

The CD's lurching, unstable effect is emphasized by the scratchy, distorted vocal pick-up, as if Larsen were singing through a '30s-era Philco. How much of that distortion is due to his mobile 8-track studio is uncertain, though I'm sure it sounds exactly as he intended. Yes, it becomes tiresome and distracting, and ultimately, unnecessary. It works best on tracks when Larsen slowly brings in other instruments (opener "Saint Sebastian," the trippy "On An Ice Block"), proving an almost 3-D effect vs. his static-flat warbling.

There are only a few noticeable points of references for comparison. "Rose in Reverse" sounds like retro low-fi Strokes, while "Snap and Crackle" reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie. In fact, Larsen's voice resembles Ben Gibbard's, though it's not nearly as cute and cuddly, nor does it want to be.

It's hard to make out exactly what Larsen's trying to accomplish other than to create an overwhelming sense of fatigue or futility. If that's his goal -- to construct arty portraits of generation Y despair trapped within an urban dustbowl -- he's succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. By the end, you're left with a faded profile of someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or recovering from one.

back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted Aug. 1, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Rating: Yes

Obligatory pull-quote: "There is something to be said for an approach that flaunts purposeful disinterest."