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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).

S/T (CD)

Every piece of music that passes through my not-so-capable hands gets the same treatment. After all, there is a monumental quest lying ahead and that is to find an angle on which to balance a usually teetering review. So, I shake and examine the packaging. Sometimes I smell it. I put on the CD and play all the tracks, then play certain individual ones, or even random snippets. When the comparisons come flying out furiously, or strange persistent quirks make the writing easier, I often breathe a sigh of relief. But sometimes it's not so easy.

I don't believe 3ColorNegative makes any pretensions whatsoever, which is perhaps why I had a more difficult time writing about this artist. (That's not to say I like pretentious artists!) I was just searching too hard for the story angle, and in this case what's more important is the music itself. These are very strong pop songs, with the emotional structures of both Matthew Sweet and perhaps an updated version of the Posies, filtered through enough of Low's dronerock sensibilities to make things interesting. But it's in the soaring choruses of songs like "Stand By Yourself", "A Lovely Friend" and "Undefined" where 3ColorNegative's L. Nguyen really finds his comfortable niche from which to take aim at your heart. Without abandoning dynamics for dead formulas, he fashions a wealth of hooks and melodies that had me humming along through most of the songs.

My favorite track off the album was "Spendid Ending", which was sort of like an amazing Sebadoh song crossed with the refinement and chordal pauses of evocative Frisco fellas, the Red House Painters. And indeed, like Mark Kozelek, Nyguyen often tells stories of love and loss but luckily for us refuses to devolve into self-aggrandization. I liked the different timing and more bouncy feel on "Somehow", which strangely reminded me of early Ben Lee. And the cover of The Carpenter's "Superstar" sounded pretty good as well, though I know others will defer to the Sonic Youth as the definitive indie version of that song.

For a home recorded album, there is a surprising amount of growl and presence to the electric guitars on the tracks. Also, it's pretty amazing how Nguyen gets maximum dynamics milage out of his songs with just a drum machine. He knows exactly what he's doing with the beatbox and uses it wisely to drive home the choruses in exactly the right places.

This is a great first album and I'd like to hear more of what Nguyen has to offer in the future.

- review by BY (4.27.03)        

Asaurus Records
PO Box 0664
Allen Park, MI 48101-0664

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