Fuzzy, lo-fi pop debut saves best for last
This surreally giddy, overstuffed and under-finished album—the debut by the Philadelphia one-man hurdy-gurdy Colin Pate—sets up its tent hopefully near the better neighborhoods of Elephant Six-dom. Intermittently excellent (and intermittently unintelligible), Smother Party is a purely provisional stab at psyche-pop greatness that may, in time, result in permanent residence. For now, though, it’s best to walk quickly over the rickety foundations of drum machine and jerry-rigged keyboards, past the early essays at found poetry, toward the latter part of this dense and under-structured album. Once past the short, keyboarded blippiness of the title track, you enter an altogether more enticing space, one bounded by the orienting thud of four-four beats, but still embellished with festoons of errant ideas. Here’s a place where brief flurry of “Immigrant Song”-ish guitar riffs can dart off half-cocked into thickets of reverbed pop choruses worthy of Ariel Pink (“Constantly Changing”), where a steady bass line pulses under dreamy choruses about “self-pleaaaaasuurre” (“Samantha’s Reverie”). The best two songs come last, though, adding just enough clarity to Pate’s lo-fi, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic to give you a good grip on what’s happening. “King Elvis” totters forward at half speed, plaintive lyrics about seeking King Elvis with a flashlight and falling asleep with dictionaries on one’s eyes making a sort of you-had-to-be-there sense. And “Luxury Liner”, a whispery whimsy about love, death, and submerged cruise ships, is everything you could want from a skewed bedroom genius with one eye on Jeff Magnum and the other on Syd Barrett.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.