Wednesday, July 1, 1998

EPIC LO-FI ROCK

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Having its pop and eating it too, local lo-fi foursome Outrageous Cherry steers tube amps and two drums through 11 tracks of velvet undergrounded, pet-sounding originals on this follow-up to last year's album of covers, Stereo Action Rent Party.

The sound on Nothing ranges from scribbled, low-rent pop ("I've Never Seen Your World") to flat-out noise ("The Hypnotic Eye"). Sometimes the mix of noise and melody is brilliant. Sometimes it's just frustrating. The wafty jam "Panavision 70" features a dreamy vocal by beatkeeper Deb Agolli, but the song just drifts from its ad hoc beauty into noise guitar sabotage without really accomplishing much.

Likewise, the title track is Tommy James' "Crimson & Clover" with an almost orchestral dose of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Credit producer Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive, etc.) with keeping the sound poised between Reed and Brian Wilson. Depending on your tolerance for indulgence, Nothing's Gonna Cheer You Up's mix of noise and pop is inspired or just overwhelming.

As much as OC brings that noise, it also knows when to leave it home. When the band does rock out, as on the great power-pop song "Jayne," you feel as if you're getting only half the story; that in the search for a perfect single, somehow the great, creative pop-melody-as-epic-symphony (see: Pet Sounds) is being denied. Or perhaps the studio crafting is as key to the songwriting as are singer-songwriter Matt Smith's chords and lyrics.

Most of the time Smith seems a nerdier Lou Reed, prone to holding notes too long ("You Don't Understand Me," "Genevieve"). His voice gives OC its underrated charm, but he also knows when to let the music's noise-pop tension do the talking. When "Nope" lapses into short-circuiting chord pyrotechnics and overdriven amps, it's White Light, White Heat whiteout; the guitar blasts are more memorable than the verses. Maybe that's the idea: the strum's only as good as the drang. Enjoy.

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