No no no no no. This isn’t doing it for me. With vocals rivaling Calvin Johnson in pitch, and dubbing themselves indie-pop, there’s an obvious Beat Happening reference here. But where other artists succeed at setting themselves apart from their influences, and do so well, I’m not quite hearing it in The Absentee (MySpace)–at least, not at first.
It’s not until the final minute of “Shared”, the opening track to Victory Shorts, that the song becomes anything noteworthy. As the album continues, there’s a distinct flavor of Johnson, Leonard Cohen, a hint of (God forbid!) Crash Test Dummies, and a poppier Tom Waits; but again, it never seems to stand on its own. Select songs do have worth–“They Do It These Days” is a prime example; while the lyrics have plenty of room for improvement, the chorus is more than satisfactory.
Don’t get me wrong: The Absentee’s music isn’t bad. It’s just not as gripping as it could be. The low male vocals with backing pleasant female ones just seems expected. A chorus here an there, an occasional harmony… those are the notable moments. The lyrics remind me of bubblegum pop, but such pop tends to be cute. And with a voice that low, it’s very hard to be cute; much easier to be sad and mopey (and it is from time to time).
Yet I was intrigued enough to write a review, which means I didn’t hate it. I guess that–and the old adage that any press is good press-is worth something.
Memphis Industries [CD, 2008]
2. Boy, Did She Teach You
3. The Nurses Don’t Notice A Thing
4. They Do It These Days
5. Love Has Had It’s Way
7. We Smash Plates
8. Spitting Feathers
10. That Old Ghost