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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).

Oval-Teen
Yorkville, IL (2-CD Set)


My, this is crunchy and tasty personable pop. Filtered through the aura of the denizens of Elephant 6 (oh, why not just say it since other reviewers seem to agree... this reminds me totally of the Beach Boys flash-forwarded into 1995 or so) are 55, count 'em 55 full length songs in this double disc. The problem is totally not the number of songs presented here, which is about 7 times that of the latest American Analog Set disc. The songs are deliciously accessible for both classic pop mavens and more experimental lo-fi tweemope addicts. Nearly all the songs are excellent. It's just that this is the first time I've been introduced to the now defunct band, and listening to their retrospective before actually knowing anything about their music is just overwhelming. I would have liked to have started with a single album, or a collection of their greatest hits. Granted, this prolific band created over 300 songs from 1994-2001 so this is just a small sampling of their output. But it's still a lot to digest in one sitting, and seeing as there's about 15 other releases sitting on my desk waiting to be eaten up by the CD player I just don't have the time to do it complete justice. I can say that I was partial to nearly every track on the album.

What I could definitely glean from this collection though, is the band covers an extremely wide amount of territory in the classic rock sense, from The Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Yardbirds, you name it. But each song seems to have at least a little significant aural something that kicks it up a notch (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Lagasse) into more modern territory. When they're in their uptempo groove, which is a lot of the time, they remind me of a more intelligent, pop version of the Ramones though there are plenty of slower and moodier pieces here as well to shoot down that pigeonhole theory. Indeed, some of the ballad and slower pieces are some of the best songs on the disc. There's also stranger stuff like "Wednesdays and Saturdays" which sounds angular and drony, like a Sonic Youth song. When their bio says they are "the ultimate mix tape band" they aren't messing around; such is the variety and eventual merit of each and every song here. Whew, I'm really grasping at straws here to find a suitable phrase or genre that sums up what they are all about. In any case, the average indie pop listener who isn't familiar with Oval-Teen is bound to find something here to like. But whether you have the time to wade through the 2 discs is another story.


- review by RABBIT (8.7.04)        

Bi-Fi Records
PO Box 1327
Ames, IA 50014
oval-teen@lakeholiday.net



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