I'm not sure how Every Single Saturday classify themselves, whether they prefer to be called a power-pop band, or an alternative rock band, or an indie band, or some other easy classification that eludes me at the moment, but I'll be damned if I can't pin them down myself. Yep, they're catchy, and yep, their debut Building is dripping with fuzzy guitar riffs, and yeah, they've probably listened to a little Radiohead in their day. But I don't want to ramble on about how Building is a power-pop record, because in many ways, it isn't.
Every Single Saturday is a Los Angeles-based three piece rock outfit. Two of the three band members built up a bit of a reputation as side-men for bigger stars: drummer/vocalist Luke Adams toured with Pete Yorn, and keyboardist/bassist Zac Raye worked with Alanis Morrissette and Macy Gray. But on their own album, the emphasis is on immaculately produced yet scruffy rough-and-tumble guitar pop. It sounds like a contradiction, but it's not: the band know their way around a recording studio, and because of that, they clearly have aimed to pile layers of chunky guitar riffs on each track while sounding appealingly slick.
While the assertion by the band's press release that they sound like Guided By Voices is partly accurate, Building sounds like a considerably louder and cleaner Guided By Voices. Guitarist Joel Martin's work is certainly front and center here, and much like on any of the mid-'90s Odds albums, it practically steals the show.
Notice how I keep talking about how the guitars sound. It's because, even though some of the songs (particularly "Tricks of the Trade") are quite strong in their own right, many of them are too indistinguishable to overpower Martin's guitar work. So it's a double-edged sword: there are copious amounts of appealing riffage piled on top of (almost) every track here, but that serves to emphasize that behind the surface the songwriting can lean a bit on the hollow side. And nearly every time Every Single Saturday come close to falling into a groove or establishing a great hook, they falter, often frustratingly so. Like they don't realize how close they were to making some damn good songs, but instead ended up with less-fulfilling ear candy.
Still, it's really tasty ear candy. Joel Martin's vocals are about as delectable as his guitar work, so even when he doesn't readily fall into a lyrical groove he can still be pretty entertaining. "Misery", falling just after halfway through the album, is one of the best examples: while Martin doesn't have a particularly memorable chorus to belt out, his vocals rhythmically bounce and bop along aside his chirpy guitar riff, ultimately creating one of those classic happy-sounding-songs-about-sadness that are such a power-pop hallmark. And on the disc's fewer slow spots, the band show their love of Radiohead with more experimental, atmospheric numbers. And while it may be a bit too predictable to venture down that road in 2001, it's part of the reason why Every Single Saturday elude easy classification. And that's a good thing.
And even though I've tried to emphasize that Every Single Saturday aren't a straight-up power-pop band, they certainly do turn in a handful of real classicist power-pop numbers here. "Gillian" is probably the best example: following in the grand tradition of power pop songs named after girls, this one has an infectious chorus followed by handclaps and "let's go!"s, just like you'd hope and expect. There's some jangly, Byrds-y guitar all over "Do Re Mi", and "Another Day" is reflective, mid-tempo pop at its best.
So while, even after repeated listens, I find that a lot of the songs on Building fail to sink in like they should, I can't help but feel that it works because it has such a wonderfully polished, perfect surface. The parts are in the right place, and while this may not be an instantly memorable debut, it certainly does show that Every Single Saturday are sonic pros. They not only know how to rock, but they know what they need to sound like when they rock.
Also, the music geek in me feels that album packaging is nearly as important as the album itself, and I'm absolutely in love with the package on this one. Coming in a gatefold sleeve with fuzzy pics of a roller coaster (some taken by the band members themselves), the art is not only complimentary to the band name but it looks really, really cool. I'll stop drooling now, but Building deserves some serious points for art direction.