The corruption of “alternative” music is difficult to deny these days. A genre that was pioneered by the likes of the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., and made world-famous by Nirvana and Pearl Jam, has evolved into a sappy conglomerate starring Third Eye Blind and the Barenaked Ladies, who make pop songs for the masses with light doses of school-girl angst thrown in for lame measure. The music has, very simply, become mainstream and dull, the very feel the originators aimed to side step.
Enter Gifthorse, whose Excess, Lies and Heather’s Arrest is, if nothing else, a bona fide attempt to stick to the original plan, even if it doesn’t matter anymore. Sure, the chord progression, lyrics, and overall sound are textbook, and Bret Levick’s vocals are more than a little reminiscent of Urge Overkill and Frank Black. Still, there’s no reason not to find songs like “Excess” and “Little White Lie” eminently likeable, or lose yourself in the simple acoustic flavor and mild degeneracy of “Coffee Queen.” And “Small” and “Gravity,” with their inconsequential lyrics and elementary guitars, would fit on most sing-along mix tapes. Ultimately, there’s nothing that constitutes a throwaway here, it’s just of matter of whether or not you can stand to listen to more of something that’s been done before, and done better. Excess, Lies and Heather’s Arrest won’t change your life, and it’s more unlikely that it will revive your faith in the genre or erase the bitter and lingering taste of Everclear. But it may be enough to make you still believe. At least a little.