reating the Beta Band’s The Three E.P.’s as an album, “Dry the Rain” is one of the all-time greatest openers in pop music. Providential and revelatory, its mesmerizing psychfolk had you shaken and catatonic by the end. And, some would argue, you really needn’t have. A former member of the Beta Band, and co-writer of “Dry the Rain,” Gordon Anderson was forced to pull out of the band with illness before it gained its due critical and popular success. Recording on his own as The Lone Pigeon, Anderson emerged in 2002 with Concubine Rice, an inviting if demented and half-baked record that managed to split the difference between whimsical one-offers and gorgeous shiv-crude pop songs. Stark and tattered around the edges, it was the quintessential diamond-in-the-rough debut, but its very rough-hewn nature made it so vibrant. Now, unfortunately, Anderon has removed the rest of the tarnish from his homespun sound, but forgotten to leave us much into which we might sink our teeth. In issuing Schoozzmmii, an even more embryonic and frustrating effort of material recorded before Concubine Rice, Anderson has opened the door to his vaults, and the view is the grotesque grandma-in-her-drawers display that nobody really needs to see.
Opening with the Concubine Rice retread, “Boats”, the track’s grimy surface sets the mark from the outset. The songs are buried beneath great dripping gobs of static and basement-bargain studio noises. Melodies are left unattended to wither and die in the heat of the lights, and perish they almost inevitably do. Most of them without a last breath for pity’s sake. The vocals are caked in crude static, which was certainly true for much of Concubine Rice, but here they have the restless, inert feeling of studio down-time. (Keep the tape rolling, George!) “Sound of a Gun” spins around on chimes, a high chorus, and a gratingly pounded piano note for three minutes, while “Maragomoroco” sounds like the caustic theme song for ABC’s new series about a bazaar in Marrakesh. “Armando” is just as inscrutable as its title would indicate, revolving with Hollies-styled guitars for over two minutes without a single utterance or change of pace.
The saddest part of all this useless audio-masturbation is that it completely masks the genuinely beautiful pop songs of which Anderson is so capable. Occasionally, certain fragments manage to stumble through the haze and gain your bug-eyed attention with their melodic weight. “Solo Traveler” is as fragile as candied-glass, with a foggy drumbeat, wavering electronic tones, and graceful, lamenting vocals. Anderson cuts back the distracting noises and crumbling static to reveal a stark paean about Odyssean fortitude. On “The Back Door,” he creates another midnight lullaby that’s accessible and sharp. Jaded synths and multi-tracked harmonies lurk above a razor-fine piano note until the vocals lift into a Franciscan chant of helpless beauty.
Still, these gems are well-disguised. Obviously, this was a garage sale for Anderson. With a new studio album on the way, clean out the house and arrange all the water-damaged furniture and broken picture frames on the lawn! The production mishaps speak to the album’s force-fed offering; track lists were left off the case amidst confusion over song sequencing. Buyer/downloader, don’t settle for awareness; this album warrants utter vigilance.