Vandolah frontman Mark Hutchins is one talented bloke. Not only does he write incredibly catchy tunes and intelligent compositions at a terrifying pace, but he expertly records, engineers and produces all his own efforts. There's also a rumor that he's able to play the guitar upside down and backwards, but that's just crazy talk.
It seems lately that Hutchins caught a bit of the prickly heat and made a feverish attempt to capture his abundant ideas before they evaporated. The result is an album called Buzz Cat under the moniker of New Pale Swimmers. The album's 18 tracks (running only 36 minutes) break in, rifle through your emotions and get out before you know what hit you. It's an exhilarating ride. Compared to the first NPS album, this one is a bit light in terms of development, as the musical bridges, extended musical passages and solos are all gone. It's as if he distilled the songs to their essence, boiling away everything but a concentrated punch of verse and chorus held together by a flurry of melodies that will stick in your mental craw.
Also still present are his trademark lyrics that straddle the razor-wire fence of genius and gibberish. A scholar once commented on Hutchins' verse: "There's a thread of logic running through the surface nonsense, but it's best not to search too hard for meanings or motivations." To wit, here's a sampling of lines which stood out this week: "Never make the same mistake / Any less than twice;" "She elevated hand jive to an art form;" "Love is only as deep as you let it be" and "If you could fly like that / You could get away with that costume." Is it any wonder that Hutchins claims Kurt Vonnegut as his literary hero?
If you enjoyed the debut NPS album – or anything by Vandolah, Wilco, Grandaddy, Pavement or Guided By Voices – there's a good chance you'll dig Buzz Cat. In one tidy package you get everything from glossy yet melancholy Americana guitars ("Tamarack"), to garage rock with squealing ragged lead guitar ("Big-Selling Bigshot's Hurt"), to rousing 70s rockers ("Shell Me at the Helm"), to muscular power pop ("Nearly Akin to an Open Flame"), to a rough, insistent tirade awash in distortion set against 7/4 time ("Backward Maps").
As if the recording doesn't offer enough variety, everything comes together with "Cadillac at Apache Dairybar," a schizophrenic song that opens with Nirvana drums that churn into a tasty Outfield rock beat with a crazy-cool bass sound that disintegrates into a quirky pastiche of noise, only to melt into a slow bluesy barrage of slide guitar. Hutchins does this all the time, folks. You're in safe hands.
The album ends with the lyric "That's all I have," a humble confession from someone who is able to compose and record songs as easily as children are able to draft refrigerator artwork. But the sobering reality is that there is very little filler on Buzz Cat –- good news indeed for lovers of good music. Available at www.vandolah.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2006 Ad Media Inc.