February 8, 2007

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Phonograph, Phonograph
Arclight Records, 2007

Not for nothing was the top-level indie press turning beet-red trying not to flood their Underoos over this alt-country debut even before it streeted. Already heavily schmoozed-in with Pere Ubu and (little surprise, given their verisimilitude) Wilco, singer Matthew Welsh allowed his 2005 solo project to expand to a full-fledged band that’s able to wrangle the concept of the Heartbreakers body-snatched by laptop-bearing hipsters without resorting to too many redneck sight-gags, and in fact Welsh’s cloddishly stressed R’s do become comfortable after a while. If there’s any quibble it’d be with the unnecessary “Interlude,” a two-minute ambient microcosm that would have been a suspiciously public boot-licking of Tortoise if intro track “Proem” and album-closer “Isobel” didn’t make more commendable use of the same featherweight-electro kaleidoscope. A lot of forward-thinking on the subject of Americana here, fixating on the particulars of where crushed distortion might fit into the picture; more adventuresome than Wilco in that regard if less melodically bipolar. A-Eric W. Saeger