Another 99-cent Salvation Army find from last week: The Happy Forest, an EP by mid-80s college-rock obscurity, The Reverbs. This duo, I've learned, is remembered mainly as the early project of Eric Menck, who went on to wider (but only barely) fame as the pop mind behind Velvet Crush. Critics generally dismiss this album as a Murmur-era REM ripoff, all morose jangle-pop with nasal vocals and stripped-down drum and bass. Well, that might have been damning in 1984, but this is the 00's, bub! We've made shameless imitation and historical revisionism the defining standard of our time (cf. The Strokes, et al). So I believe the world is now safe for The Reverbs.
All in all, there's a charming Midwestern discretion to the Reverbs, an ascetic approach to pop endearing for its lack of well-defined hooks. You can tell these guys are meandering and murmuring along on aimless jangly riffs almost out of an intellectual superiority to Top 40 radio. If these songs were too quick and catchy, it would be, you know, decadent. The overall atmosphere is of two alienated undergrads cocooned in their parents' basement on summer break, reading Voltaire and obsessing on, well, Murmur, but also XTC. You can almost listen to this LP as a field recording of a time when there was still an underground in America, when the disaffected could only find obscure bands through 'zines and when wearing black really meant something. I think the snapshot on the back of the album was worth the 99 cents, don't you? Something tells me The Dizzies will go ga-ga for this.
The Happy Forest EP - The Reverbs (.zip file)
Picture an Eye
Envision Seven Seeds
PS: The weird dips in volume on "Picture an Eye" and other songs is actually like that on the album. Cheap pressing, I guess.