The Dead Trees
avement's song “Range Life” wins the ‘name that moment’ award for this line: “Out on my skateboard, the night is just humming / And the gum smacks are the pulse I’ll follow if my Walkman fades.” It’s an indelible moment in the teenage summer experience. You got your freedom-on-wheels, you got your emotional modification unit, the batteries are going to melt but it’s no biggie, man. Two months of bad TV lay ahead but your drug connection just got improved cell phone service. Replicate that feeling and make each replica ponder a unique detail from that same summer mise-en-scene as it blurs away and call it the Dead Trees debut EP Fort Music. Rough and shaggy, semi-stoned, the songs glide on by, casting a bemused eye over typical suburban weirdness. The Dead Trees sound is studied casualness, indie-folk so lackadaisical you can hear it shrug. Think Pavement’s insouciant country without the archness.
“Television” starts things off with sublime clean guitar plucking and bounces along a peppy drum roll to blue-skies rapture. The singer possesses a voice remarkably similar to Stephen Malkmus as he drawls about sleeping on streets and taking a stroll a thousand miles long. Optimism and yearning mix pleasingly in both the music and the lyrics. It’s downright delightful. “Shelter” is the EP’s best. The singer strolls in whistling carelessly like a bear in a Hawaiian shirt after a few banana daiquiris. He admits to God that he is beginning to rot, I suppose like a dead tree. Just when the marimba promises to send us drifting away on a purple pool float, the band comes charging back in with coruscating guitars and heroic drumming. The sound continues its wake-up call on the punky “Head Trauma,” wherein the anxious two-note lead illustrates how they snagged a spot on tour with Albert Hammond Jr.
Sounding as though you lack ambition has its charm until it becomes apparent that maybe, er, uhm, you sort of skimped in places. On first listen, it simply seems like good music played well by men. They yell a little bit, they noodle a little bit, they probably like the same records as the rest of us. Competent, listenable, they don’t try to break anyone’s brain. So be it, but all evidence suggests they are talented enough to achieve loftier heights than what’s on offer here. Fort Music distils the pop nougat from indie-folk. Their placid and congenial temper comes across as a sort of sublimation, allowing for moments when all that restrained passion discharges, making for some slyly dynamic music.
Reviewed by: Charles Robbins
Reviewed on: 2007-07-06