Thursday, April 3, 2008

small-time machine

if there's one thing you can bet the farm on (and in these times, even that won't get you real far), it's that when there's a new one man band in town, mr. mammoth is going to have something to say about it. enter jason drake, the mastermind of hypeworthy cassettes won't listen, brooklyn's new buzz boy and savvy merchandising maven (he has a deal with the indiefied fashionistas brooklyn industries: they sell his clothes, he plays at their stores, 6 times last weekend). so, in addition to his rather shrewd business mind (he also self-released and distributed his first "physical" album small-time machine recently - check the "think indie" badge on its cover), what makes cassettes won't listen worthy of a minimum of six listens? well, the more than passing resemblance to the postal service, for one (i heard there's a new album - can anyone back me up on that?). but a lot of people have covered the give up territory since then, and a pale imitation is gonna have a hard time resting on those laurels, leaving cassettes won't listen is definitely subject to some legitimate accusations of copy & paste. he dips into lcd soundsystem territory without lingering too long, and swipes a couple tricks from other knob-twisters, but despite drake's (lengthy) list of influences and imitations, the result is not greater than the sum of its parts. but let's not shut the door on CWL quite yet - sure, drake isn't blazing any trails, but the dude can fucking script some hooks, and i can't get "large radio" out of my head for the life of me (you should know the rules by now - if there's some sweet melodies, mr. mammoth is on that like butter on bread). so let's give CWL the benefit of the doubt, if only momentarily, and give drake some props for the three songs on small-time machine that are more than okay.

small-time machine is, quality-wise, shaped like a valley. it starts high, and ends high, but the middle is lower than the value of the dollar. it took me a couple tries before i made it all the way through, mostly because i'd avoid the bloated, saccharine cesspool of "freeze and explode" - truly abysmal. a song like that is why god invented the fast forward button. fortunately, it's the only real boobytrap on the record.

sometimes, i think about albums in terms of how easily i can ignore them and concentrate on something else, like my book in the subway. the better an album is, the less i can ignore it (FYI: antidotes is presently my most unignorable album). small-time machine is a parabola of interesting-ness. i always tune in for "metronomes" and "large radio," and my attention invariably wanes until "the finish line," the final track. what small-time machines suffers from most is an overabundance of itself. there isn't one song on this record that wouldn't benefit from losing some of those bulky winter minutes - unsurprising, actually, considering drake's self-reliance for his records. other ears should have trimmed that fat. "the broadcast" could have been one of machine's best cuts, but at 6 minutes, its shoegazey climax comes and melts away without any discernible impact.

what makes "metronomes" so instantly appealing is its likeness to "the district sleeps tonight," and not merely in tone, but in expectation. "the district" is a great song, but it's an anticipator - it makes you excited and wanting more. "metronomes" causes more anticipation that small-time machines can deliver. drake's voice is reminiscent of a half-dozen others in indie rock, which gives him an uncomfortably attractive chameleon quality, a hook in itself. "two kids" benefits from his playfulness and danceable electro-bleeps, but CWL's greatest fault is plain repetition, which really doesn't fly, especially for one man bands. the constant build and addition of sounds is an integral part of that experience, and drake has either not learned that yet, or has an overblown sense of his own melodies. "large radio," clearly the album's best song, is enough proof that CWL can make great music. too bad the rest of small-time machines can't live up to it.

"large radio" & "paper float"

use think indie to find a store near you.

1 comment:

Goose said...

look on metacritic for the new album. i saw it there a while ago, no date at that time.