The Doxies present a promising pop-rock album marred by horrid production and some unfortunate recording decisions.
TO: The Doxies
RE: Production values
Look, guys�that lo-fi thing? It was really cool in those heady salad days of the early '90s, when Sebadoh was infallible and Bee Thousand was, like, the best album ever. And it was still pretty cool when some wise guys took it a bit further and started taping direct bi-fi brainstem-to-boombox mini-manifestos, instilling their little ditties with an urgency that was usually reserved for tear-stained missives and communiqués guarding nuclear secrets. But now? C'mon. Prices have gone down, quality's gone up, and that poor kid living above you (the one who smokes for dinner and likes to jam out at 3:00 am) is probably laying down Pet Sounds II on his iMac. The only ones still diddling around static and hiss are some bedroom popsters (who have all the credibility of a high-school diarist gone horribly awry) and some dodgy pretty boys who ply their trade in nostalgia values and bad leather jackets.
Now, I know that you're not in the same league as the former, but you're definitely tooling around in the same playpen as the latter, minus the leather jackets. I love the Velvets, I love early California pop, and I really dig on all that late '60s/early '70s AM radio gold, you know? But let's be serious... this plan of action, this conceit that you're hanging on to? That shit just doesn't fly. I know it's intentional, and that you recorded the entirety of Weight of Gold in a barn with some vintage '70s 16-tracker, and brother, it shows, it really does. And your songs suffer the worse for it. All of your touchstone luminaries sparkled because they transcended the technological limitations of their time, and their songs produced a visceral energy that stemmed from both necessity and innovation. However, you don't get the same effect when you're dicking around with some self-imposed Luddite mantra. This isn't even an issue of analog vs. digital or any of that other Tape Op jazz; instead, it's about working within your limitations vs. consciously hobbling yourself to outdated standards. Trust me, I'm fairly certain that Reed would have recorded White Light in a 24-bit ProTools studio, if the means were ready and available.
It's a damn shame, because there are some great tracks here, based on solid cornerstones founded on alt. country, vintage garage rock, and British Invasion-era Kinks-style Brit-Pop. "Checking In and Checking Out" is a fantastic burst of Summerteeth pop, with a catchy melody that could easily rival anything produced by Tweedy's camp. But the tinny, hollow treatment given to the instruments doesn't do the song justice, and it just ends up breezing by instead of having any lasting impact. Similarly, the acoustic-based and piano-driven follow-up "Sixteen and the Sea" could be a wonderfully punchy classic Americana pop song if all the instruments weren't buried under flat levels and shoddy mic work. As it is, it sounds a bit like adult contemporary.
I can't stress how much I love the summery England-in-the-'70s vibe of "Crows and Jays (This Bird Flies)" and it's thumping horn-laden break. However, the production once again divests the track of most of its vitality, and the song barely shuffles by on its own merit instead of strutting around with any type of verve.
The production style hurts the most when you guys slam on the DS-1s and turn the amps up to 10. Songs like "Kid Don't Know", "Hurricane Eyes", and "Alibi" could be head-nodding scorchers, drawing equal inspiration from the slash-and-burn guitar aesthetics of Uncle Tupelo and the snarl of classic Detroit proto-punk. Unfortunately, the drums are buried too low in the mix and the guitars sound thin, lacking any real bite. They end up slipping by with all the punch of a Bon Jovi tune: limp-fisted, melodramatic, and ultimately rendered forgettable.
Seriously, guys: I really wanted to like your album. There are some brilliant tunes on here, and you have a wonderful pop sensibility, with some great hooks and a good ear for solid arrangements. Nonetheless, I can't get over the fact that the entire ordeal sounds like it was recorded through tin-cans. And it's painful, because this album wants to be a big, lush pop record; I can only imagine how breathtaking it could be if someone like Fridmann or O'Rourke were behind the boards in a proper studio. As it stands, the production is adequate enough to convey your ideas, but only just; in many cases, the tunes lack vim and vigor, their identity robbed by letting the arrangements clash in the same frequency range.
Don't get me wrong, Weight of Gold is a pretty good album, and it's very promising. I can only expect your next outing to be absolutely spectacular. But do us all a favor and drop the lost-recording-from-the-'70s pretense, huh? Your audience is smarter than that, and false nostalgia can only take you so far.