The Gnomes: II

[12 July 2007]

By Dan Raper

The Gnomes’ second self-released CD, aptly titled II, shows us a band at ease with its middle age. The group has the same Grandfathers-of-American-Indie touchstones as on its debut (Pavement, Guided by Voices, R.E.M.), but with a deal more wry introspection. The band’s got ageing on their minds, and it’s not pretty -– from the laundry-list of Americana icons in “Need Replacements” (“Lot of folks are getting old, and need replacements”) to the low-fi, shuffling depression of “Have it Your Way” (“people are sad”). Singer Andy Larson is not distinctive -– his voice is somewhere square in the middle of the smoothness of John Mayer and the country inflexions of Ryan Adams –- and the conventional phrasing and melodic constructions will necessarily hamper the band from gaining prominence due to lack of originality. But there’s a definite pleasure in the Don MacLean-esque mellow country vibe, on a track like “Dream”, or in “Rodeo Clown’s” menacing/unhinged bass riff. The best of the bunch, though, is “Whiskey is Misery”, another welcome entry into the alcohol-soaked subgenre. We mostly forgive the group’s excursions into the obvious – musically and lyrically – for the sake of their mature, mellow outlook and occasional moment of Superchunk carelessness.

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