Jim Beattie and Judith Boyle, the songwriter/guitarist and vocalist who are the founders of Adventures In Stereo (there are three other players named but uncredited as to instrument), seem to be something of puzzle. Beattie was one of the early members of Primal Scream, parting company with them just before they began to get on the radio with “Loaded,” and so winning no awards for financial foresight. Apart from that, the most I’ve found out from the press clippings sent with the CD and a couple of search engines is that Beattie is a great Beach Boys fan. And frankly, I would have figured that out listening to his songs. They sound like the work of a man who was a child in the ’60s (that’s in, not of), grew up listening to the radio of the day and tried to find that sound again as an adult. All respect is paid to the sources, yet this is clearly of the year 2000; the sound perhaps of someone nostalgic for a golden age they never really knew.
Monomania is the second U.S. release for the group, which drips with nostalgia for the ’60s but in a sense is once removed. Beattie plays after the style of his avowed influences, and Boyle sings with a breathy, angelic voice reminiscent of what Sinead O’Connor is capable of when she isn’t emoting all over the floor. This is not-quite pure pop; the American music influences a little bit too much on the sleeve of this Scottish combo.
The songs are short affairs. With an average length of less than three and a half minutes, they come from the speakers into your head with little adornment, like a Saturday morning cartoon theme (Josie & the Pussycats, anyone?)
In a way, Adventures in Stereo are the goose to the gander of Bozzio/Levin/Stevens, which I previously reviewed for PopMatters. That trio plays songs stripped of anything that could get in the way of the instrumental masturbation of its players (melodies, lyrics, that sort of thing). Adventures in Stereo’s songs make a point of starting and finishing before you have a chance to get bored with them. This can blow up in their face, however, because sometimes the songs are over before they really have a chance to get their hooks into you. Sounding more like the idea of a song than a fully developed work.
Yet this is one of those albums that works it’s way into your consciousness a little more with each listen (and also sound great driving around California on a late-summer day). After the first listen I thought this would go into my “not the brightest spark, but well worth hanging onto” box. During the second I began to suspect that it might be worth a bit more. Tell you what. I’ll meet you after a couple more listens, and seeing them in concert next month, and we’ll see how I like them then. That’s what we in the review biz call a tease, in this case for a forthcoming concert review. Watch this space.