Earlimart is a band that can’t decide what it wants to be.
Let’s “break down”, or, as we “learned intellectuals” here at PopMatters might prefer to say, “deconstruct” the album according to its very purposeful originally-sequenced order:
Track 1, “99N”: Abbreviated feedback/weird noise stuff.
Track 2, “kill your parents”: A raunchy distorted-vocal cross between a decent pop punk hook, a garage rock standard, and what naggingly (and disturbingly) reminds me of the Stone Temple Pilots, material I constantly had bleeding through my walls during college.
Track 3, “heaven”: A number quite informed by X, as are many of the offerings on Filthy Doorways. A down-tempo shift from the last number, with both acoustic and dirty electric guitars in the mix, the standard male vocal lead vocal (undistorted this time) complemented by female vocals that might even be Exene Cervenka herself (she’s listed as a guest performer in the liner notes).
Track 4, “dorian gray”: Like above, but with an unaccompanied male vocal, and even slower. Devolves into pointless feedback solo at close of song.
Track 5, “i’m a queen”: “You get what you pay for, and you get and you get and you get”. Because I’m reviewing this, I didn’t HAVE to pay. Tape hiss (artificial?), amplifier buzz, and weird radio dial tuning static accompany this whispered, echoey acoustic-and-drums tune.
Track 6, “come on whiskey”: A little instrumental done up in 3/4 time, with what sounds at least a little like a rolling movie projector clicking away in the background. Earlimart sure does like to use that “found sound”. I wish this song wasn’t here, so we would get sooner to…
Track 7, “someday you’re gonna love me”: ... which is the best song on the album. A straight up folk-country number complete with twangy slide guitar in all the right places. If I’d just heard this song, I would have been totally happy with the band.
Track 8, “portland, ore.”: Another acoustic guitar cowboy-style waltz, this one with vocals and some minimalist percussion, the second-most engaging song on the record.
Track 9, “pensacola, fla.”: Now this one retains the acoustic guitar, minimalist percussion, and “song named for city” theme of track 8, but to plaintive atonal sighs that both sounds like and contains lyrics as if it were a throwaway out-take from any number of major label alterna-bands signed during the post-Pearl Jam gold rush of the early Nineties. “Burn the house down, Pensacola Florida”, indeed.
Track 10, “punk rock mom”: Another cowboy song. “Sing along to a country song, and your punk rock mom is so brave.” Sure. At least, as with track 7 (only a little less so), it more closely adheres to the country thing, which is clearly what this band does best, at least on Filthy Doorways. A toe-tapper.
Track 11, “punk roecker”: Back to the garage/punk aesthetic here to wind down the record (as I quote “bye bye, bye bye, bye bye, bye bye”), this serves as the companion piece to track 2 in that it trots out the fuzzed out guitars, distorted vocals, and what I guess are attempts at punk rock fury, though I can’t convince myself one way or the other if they’re going for the “hipster post-punk irony” thing or not. Either argument is unconvincing.
Track 12, “993”: Weird noises and a sample of some voice speaking (in a foreign language?) looped backwards. Strikingly similar to track opener “99N” in content, length, AND title, suggest a symmetrical sequencing of the album which is reinforced by the parallels between tracks 2 and 11, and make the quartet of songs a prime candidate for further study!
Honestly: In Earlimart’s apparent quest to cross X with the Pixies with low-fi indie rock with garage rock with alt-country, the country part is what works best. Forget about the rest of the stuff, guys! You’ll never be X OR the Pixies (who could?), and low-fi was out as soon as it was in. But country music? It’s been around most of the century in one form or another, I’d say it’s a good bet to stick around, and its clear that that’s where the songwriting talents of this band lie. Cull 3 or 4 songs from this disc and put ‘em out on an old-fashioned 7” record (sigh OK, or on a CD, I know they’re cheaper to make), and I’d probably have enjoyed it quite a bit more.