I believe the term “concept album” is bandied about so often because the album itself is rarely better than the concept. Pushcar’s Apartment D fits that pattern to a tee. While occasionally glossed with excellent music, in substance Apartment D rarely surpasses its terribly romantic concept.
Pushcar formed in 1998 from the remnants of 10 years worth of wreckage from a number of California hardcore and college rock bands. Then came the concept, the band recorded these songs in an “Apartment D” in Santa Monica while co-founder Chris Farrell took a 13-month trip around the world. Chris and his wife Paige (who adds spoken word to this album) sent other founding member Jim Saunders a postcard from every country they visited. Saunders then used Farrell’s last lines from the postcards to complete the songs. The result, as to be expected, is woefully uneven, yet when Pushcar are truly on, they hint at being a musical force to be reckoned with—like when being a college rock band actually meant something (oh the Pixies, the Replacements, where did you go?).
“Out Here in the Sun” lashes out from spoken words (recorded on Saunders’ answering machine when the Farrells called from Athens, Greece) with dark, driving guitars which are vaguely Bauhaus-like and become more particularly gothy when punctuated by the vocal, “and you can hate me because I’m beautiful.” Yet, two-minutes in the brooding guitars momentarily recess and an acoustic guitar grabs the melody as Stephanie Saunders adds a lovely vocal bridge which is sunny and undeniably Athenian. The track continues to alternate between its pent up identity and that of the R.E.M.-variety as the two finally merge in conclusion.
However, as tremendous as “Out Here in the Sun” is, Pushcar loses the plot a bit. “Sixfingers Tony” sounds like a second-rate Superdrag; “No Waste of Space” hints at an atmosphere/rock hybrid (think Air meets Dream Syndicate) to which Pushcar don’t appear so well suited. Yet, salvation arrives with “Defiant Song” which would be a mega-hit were there any justice in the world. Garage-y (more aptly apartment-y, I suppose) percussion melts into organs and programming and the vocals are as choice as anything Grandaddy have released (no small praise), while the “if you change your mind / I’ll wait around” choruses are delicious.
Apartment D continues with such up-and-downs. “A Perfect Periwinkle Blue” and “Wise Beyond Denial” are terribly bland, forgettable filler, while “Myself to Bits” is richly textured with its looped guitars, agile keys and a sweltering bassline. Pushcar never make a sustained threat to rise above the concept, but the combination of the handful of standout tracks and the wandering beauty of the concept itself makes Apartment D enjoyable on many levels.