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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

True Love (CD)

I'm somewhat embarrased at having had the good fortune of discovering Minmae's CD True Love in the ever fecund Amoeba Records bargain bin for only $3. Embarrased, because after a good four or five listens it can be ascertained that their brand of ingenuous, invigorating lo-fi rock certainly does not belong there. I'd had them on my list of CDs to get and would have paid normal price; it's clearly worth it. Well, if anything I'm regretting that I didn't pick up the other CD of theirs (Microcassette Quatrains?) that also sat forlornly in the midst of so many old Journey and Gin Blossom discs.

At first blush, the sound seemed to ring similar to the now defunct, off kilter heroes Butterglory, as well as the purer pop chefs Silver Scooter. The opener, "Its Easy The Way I Care", with its loping guitars and lazy vocals forms the opening foray into a work of some great twists and turns. Next up is the perfect slow pop of "No Issue". Here the standard indie pop trio setup starts to change a bit. Let's start first with the vocals of Sean Brooks. The odd and wiggly twitching vibrato of his lower register really kicks in here. It's a great, distinctive voice rich with character. I can't decide whether he sounds more like Wil Oldham, J Mascis, or Vic Chestnutt. At first it could be a bit jarring, but after some reflection it really fits in with the music.

My favorite track, "Future Levelers", starts off innocently enough. A mid tempo rocker redolent with slacker "dah, dah, dah"s, it starts to increase its density of sound until there is a complete break with choppy distorted guitars and drums, and then song ends on the repeated refrain "now I'm back on the wagon". What is great about the band is that they are able to ever so briefly ascend into the heights of sonic mayhem (perhaps a little like Joan of Arc's reckless tendencies) but maintain an overall sense of direction and poise that keeps the racecar on the track. I like that the dynamics vary this much; it provides a good balance of hummable things along with more dissonant ear candy.

Other standout tracks include... well, I pretty much thought that the rest of the tracks were all excellent. "The Courtship" follows the old path of whisper to a scream as it descends into near pandemonium near the end. "At Your Request" simmers along nicely until burning out with raking, raucous guitar. "This Means Everything" reminds me of a Seam song mixed with a Red House Painters melody line. The drony "Signed To A Check" changes up things with a strange sounding digital piano sound keeping rhythm. "Do Not Pretend" functions as a weird, almost creepy bookend to this disc, having strange spacey noises mixed in with a simple ride and snare beat. I also forgot to mention that Brooks' lyrics seem to mirror the dichotomous nature of the music. They are at once immediate and reassuring, while remaining obtuse enough to qualify as minute puzzles, if that's possible to picture.

Minmae does so many things that I like a band to do. They provide solid, visceral songs with enough rough-edged interaction to keep me listening beyond the first 3 times. Plus they've got the sort of "mid-fi" sensibilities that I'll always have a soft spot for. Currently releasing material on the Devil in the Woods label, I believe the band has a new CD set for release this summer.

- review by BY (5.29.04)        

Devil In The Woods
Devil in the Woods Records
PO Box 579168
Modesto, CA 95357

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