It’s sorta tough to tell what a band is all about on the strength of one EP, especially an EP as insubstantial as Earlimart’s The Avenues, just released on the Palm Pictures label. Well, not insubstantial, exactly, so much as twee and breathy and, in any event, way too short and skimpy. I’m down with twee and breathy (and short and skimpy), but when I hit the links (the Internet kind, that is) and found enthusiastic raves for the band’s debut LP Kingdom of Champions (now, admittedly, three years old), I thought the reviewers must have been talking about a different band called Earlimart.
From the estimable Magnet magazine: “...at the crossroads of noisy rock and rural eclecticism...” “...flat sheets of guitar bluster and...Sonic Youth analogies [that] start to make sense...” “Earlimart sticks with [their] noisier instincts.” From Basement Life: “filthy-sounding guitars, screamed vocals and well-placed feedback...” “...punk rock attitude with rock and roll sensibilities...” “...quiet Pixies-type moments to loud, screaming parts that are actually reminiscent of Kurt Cobain...” And, from Splendid e-zine: “a tough, gritty band...” “...one wild ride through dust and dirt, coke and corner bars that stink of life and missed beats.”
Say what? Maybe those reviewers were just blowing smoke, or maybe Earlimart has evolved by leaps and bounds in the three years since Kingdom of Champions. But I’ve listened to The Avenues about twenty times now and I have yet to discover a filthy sounding guitar, a screamed vocal, one single flat sheet of guitar bluster or so much as a wisp of well-placed feedback. What the hell is “well-placed feedback,” anyway?
Oddly, The Avenues sounds more like the affliction than the antidote described by the Basement Life writer in the following excerpt:
“Over the past few years, the indie rock scene has held its doors wide open to the super-sensitive sounds of countless emo bands that seem to be hell bent on taking the ‘rock’ out of indie rock. Production quality seems to be constantly on the rise, making everything sound so clean that a good deal of the raw nature of rock music is already lost; and because everyone’s always trying to make-up or make-out or whatever, there’s hardly a trace of attitude in anything. This being the case, the arrival of California’s Earlimart comes as a huge breath of fresh air.”
Well, let’s see, the production on The Avenues is huge and spotless, and as for Earlimart being a breath of fresh air in a p-whipped genre, it sounds more like they’ve sown their filthy-guitar-and-screamed-vocal oats and are now laying fallow for awhile in fields tilled by fellow barely-rockers Granddaddy. In fact, parts of The Avenues sound like a perfect cross between Granddaddy and French electronic duo Air. In other words, not the filthy screamers you thought you married.
Like I say, though: tough to tell from just five songs. To their (street) credit, Earlimart come highly recommended as a live band by folks I know (and folks who know what rock and roll is supposed to taste like, as the picante sauce ad goes) who caught them one or both of the times they’ve played in Missoula so far—once opening for Sebadoh last year, and once late last month. Both times at Jay’s Upstairs. It’s my own fault for dozing each time; The Avenues at least piqued my interest for next time.