A Dreamy Drive

Sep 27, 2000 at 12:00 am
Attention! If you’re in a hurry, don’t take the highway! Toshack Highway is a long and watery road I want to speed down, but I’m forced to take my time, or take it out of the player. The initial tasteless repetitions of “Harlem,” a milquetoast Casio lullaby, certainly don’t encourage any further listening. But if you manage to get past that first track, the ride gets a little more interesting.

“Wurlitzer Waltzer” is a more attractive, more structured, ’60s harpsichord ballad-type thang with the CD’s first vocals by Adam Franklin — Toshack’s player of guitars, electronics and keyboards. He’s also the former guitarist-keyboardist for that highly influential band Swervedriver. Now that you know that, forget it, because it will only frustrate and confuse you when you don’t hear those intense, slowed-down, punk-angst vocals or brooding and organically morphing guitars, layered with effects and feedback — why Swervedriver was revered and emulated.

TH fluctuates from a bunch of guys goofing around with pretty sounds (“Waking Up” should be called “Falling Asleep”) to pleasant instrumentals such as “Just Landed,” the sound equivalent to spaceships landing in the picnic area of a hippie acoustic guitar park. Its inconsistency suffers from a lack of commitment, but there’s still something about this half-assed effort that I like and the recording manages to have its moments. “Theme” captivates and transports you into some early-’70s sci-fi, drug-induced animation with dreamy western guitars. “Valentine Number One” and “Board the Bullet Train” are two gratifying odes to My Bloody Valentine (where are they now?) in some sort of synthesized shadow of their memory.

I must say, Franklin really does have a nice voice with a quality and disposition that sometimes reminds me of Jeff Buckley, and the ride definitely gets more successful toward the end. “Toshackinblack” satisfies by bleeding darkened piano echoes into haunting, underwater vocals, interspersed with Spanish guitar. It’s the track with the most depth and passion. And we finish up with “Sisyphus,” a more straightforward, slow pop song with a touch of slide guitar simulation that melts and distorts into a downtrodden Casio carousel.

Toshack Highway is worth a listen, but there’s no need to fasten your seat belt.

Anita Schmaltz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].