Picking You Up Just to Put You Down
n his guise as Player Hater, Jeff Gomez pursues torpid melancholia with a single-minded devotion that is not only admirable, but surprisingly enjoyable. When his rudimentary songs and lo-fi aesthetic converge with one of his painfully real details of a failing relationship, it’s like being in the company of a perpetually blue but still illuminating friend who can frame his woes in such a way that they feel a bit your own. It’s also nice to hear from someone who is even worse at all that stuff then you are, especially if they can wring a decent tune out of it.
Gomez does try to wring the heck out of three lazily strummed chords and a somnambulant drum machine, though. Willing to test the listeners patience a bit by plumbing the depths of BPM possibilities while frequently exceeding the six minute mark, it would’ve been tough to navigate Picking You Up Just to Put You Down had it been a dirgy affair. But there’s a persistent sweetness and welcome echoes of old favorites like Felt in the similarly dry melodies or the Smiths in the music’s sad elegance to put it over.
Disarmingly self-deprecating in the critique of his own music, Gomez owns up to “minimal talent” in liner notes for some of his earliest songs, which would be a fair assessment. But he’s at least improved upon those meager beginnings, even if his bedroom productions are only a slight more polished. Considering his parallel career as an author (“Our Noise,” “Geniuses Of Crack”) it’s not surprising that the confessions to failure Gomez utters vaguely are as important overall as the cozy web of guitars. These spare melodies need the color, although no lyric is particularly quotable.
“Who’s Walking Away” and “I’m Upset” have the least nebulous of hooks of this batch, the first benefiting from a relatively frisky drum pattern and the second from a bleary, hazy verse. They represent the pinnacle of his Lou Reed-inspired approach of naked simplicity and plain language. But all Jeff’s musings on “They Might Be Assholes” concerning the similarly named alt-dork duo can’t save the dreary tune, nor in the closer “Leave”. These are where keeping your attention focused may get difficult.
Still, without seeming to try very hard, Player Hater—if we must call him that—performs a low-wattage entrancement with Picking You Up Just to Put You Down. It’s good, solid sad-sack music from a guy who might be ultimately be better off alone and miserable.
Reviewed by: Chuck Zak
Reviewed on: 2005-05-19