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Slumber Party

Kill Rock Stars

retchen Gonzales - guitarist, back-up vocalist and occasional songwriter in Slumber Party - was once a member of my all-time favorite improv band the Universal Indians. She also had her own U.I. spin-off Dr. Gretchen’s Musical Weightlifting Program which was quite excellent. That was years ago, though, and has nothing to do with Slumber Party. Well, it has one thing to do with Slumber Party. It makes me consistently disappointed with them. And it’s not that I expect a bunch of fierce improv action from them or anything; I just want them to be a really awesome band, to validate Gretchen’s quite drastic genre shift. I want hearing a Slumber Party album rather than a Musical Weightlifting album to be justified in some way. But that never happens. Slumber Party are, instead, merely a decent act that I could easily forgive or ignore coming from anyone other than one of my favorite musicians of the past decade.

On the band’s previous albums, I thought front woman Aliccia Berg’s songs were pretty good. They were nothing to write home about, but they were pretty solid and she easily surpassed my admittedly low expectations for retro/nostalgia acts. On 3 everything seems to fall apart though. The band sounds like their reaching. Berg’s songs aren’t quite as strong as on previous efforts and though Gonzales’s few offerings are better musically, they just can’t compare lyrically - often falling into weak cliches. If the two could achieve a better balance, this album (and the entirety of their output) could be so much better.

But enough petty gripes. The album is definitely not without highlights, and even in the deepest stages of my pissiness I’ll admit it. The opener “Electric Boots” isn’t all that different than the bulk of the album, but it succeeds by mixing all the finer elements the other songs toss around in the best possible way. Berg’s Velvets playing late 50’s jukebox style is in rare form here, and it’s definitely the best choice to start the album. Unfortunately things drag after the strong start and don’t pick up again until we’re half-finished, with the single-worthy “Air” finally breaking the monotony. Upbeat and mixed far better than everything else on the album, “Air” has the reverb and drums in full effect with the chorus repeating (and repeating backwards lower in the mix?) around the best phasing swirls the band has to offer. “Black Heart Road” immediately follows and keeps things interesting by simply managing to sound completely unlike anything else the band has to offer, more John Denver meets Donovan than anything garage or psychedelic.

Sadly, after the one-two punch of those tracks, the album resumes exactly where it left off and plods along for two less-than-memorable tracks and closes with the piano-based “Why?”. Though I appreciate it’s difference (it, like “Black Heart Road,” is the work of Gonzales) from the majority of the album., it doesn’t really bring any finality to the record. It instead makes me wish more of the album were as well-produced as this finale. On the other hand, whenever I think this, I am immediately reminded of the other element in the mix- the sappy lyricism. Gonzales and Berg need to work on finding that middle ground bad. If they keep this up, I can’t see another Slumber Party album being worth listening to. 3 focuses too much on the individuals rather than the Slumber Party as whole. It seems like Gretchen’s offerings are here to test the water, to get reactions from people. I hope so. They need to get into band mode rather than that of dueling singer/songwriters. Collaboration, ladies. Collaboration.

Reviewed by: Mike Shiflet

Reviewed on: 2003-10-01

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Posted 11/29/2004 - 02:59:23 PM by Hexagon:
 You guys know the Pokémon phenomenon actually began with two videogames on the Game Boy, right? Everything else, including the cards, was merchandising. The games were great, honest.
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