Grover: My Wild Life
Speaking of Mitch Easter and Let's Active, Grover marks the resurfacing of Let's Active's Angie Carlson, and Mitch himself even produces four of these songs. The others, for another Boston connection, are produced by Kevin Salem, once of the band Dumptruck (and whose solo album Soma City, from last year, I got recently, and really like). And to tie all stray elements together, My Wild Life ironically bears more than a little resemblance to Slip It Under the Door. Angie's dense waves of distortion color what might have been cheery pop songs, and give them an ominous haziness. Angular twists of guitar remind me a little of the Breeders, and Angie's raw, slightly-chirpy, English-accented voice then bends the mood in yet another direction, making Grover sound a little like Elastica without so much Wire in it.
When this works, as it does arrestingly in the raspy bass pulse and airy vocals of "Yeah, I'm Dumb", the This Mortal Coil-like vocal flourishes in "Bend", the jumpy and good-natured bop of "My Wild Life", the frantic verses of "Sweet Thing", the distinctly Big Star-ish "Anesthesia", the snarling (and Sleeper-like) "Superhero", the swirling atmosphere of "Heavy Past" and the twangy Byrds-y chorus of "Damaged Girl", it's quite intriguing and effective, indistinct in a good way, preserving some animating mystery. When it doesn't work, though, it can just sound muddy and strained, as if the music can't quite extricate itself from aural quicksand. Several of these songs, despite the sterling production credits, sound an awful lot like demos, and while this is appealing in some ways, in some ways it also makes me impatient to hear what Grover will be able to do when they really have time to get things right.