The word “indie” is so abused by the mainstream media nowadays. But in the early part of the nineties, this term came into the music lexicon as a reference to bands or fans of music who released music, oftentimes home recordings, on their own labels, independent of major label support or distribution with little interest in becoming celebrities or getting rich. Those bands thrived on non-commercial college radio thanks to program directors like yours truly who were actual undergrad students searching for something new in music, no matter the label. From that pure process of releasing music to the public, a particular sound emerged, as rough-edged as punk but as catchy as pop. Bands like Yo La Tengo, Sebadoh, Superchunk and others loved rock ‘n’ roll, and they were not ashamed to show it.
Most recently, the UK band Yuck garnered a lot of hype for being kids inspired by nineties indie rock though too young to have lived it. Despite the band’s recently released self-titled debut’s scarily close survey of the variety of sounds of nineties indie music— from the slow to the punk— it still lacks some of the verve of the real deal and loses its sheen fast (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the LP on Amazon). On the other hand, Love of Everything’s up-coming 4-track EP, “Sooner I Wish” is a home-recorded little masterpiece that stays focused in its minimalism while maintaining a passion for musical expression. It recalls the bouncy spirit of nineties indie rock while tackling the morose subject of honest lost love, as singer/guitarist Bobby Burg tangles with the ups and downs of his real marriage that recently ended in divorce, according to the press materials accompanying this release by Polyvinyl Records.
The solo project of Burg (Joan of Arc and Make Believe), Love of Everything has released seven albums to date. This amazingly tight but unceasingly giving 7-inch will officially make it out to the public on Aug. 2, but click on its title above to pre-order it if you want one of only 300 manufactured on white vinyl and an instant download of the entire EP. Polyvinyl is offering a free mp3 of the opening song, “Three Way Answers”: download or stream it here. On this opener, Burg concocts an impressive, repetitive hook by just traveling up and down his guitar neck as Matt Holland (Air Waves, Vacations) smacks out a steady drum beat while a bass plods along on a similar rhythm (possibly Burg tracked over). Burg comes on with his cutesy, nasal voice that brings to mind Mac McCaughan of Superchunk*, and the minimal musical backdrop provides him with a canvas to throw his emphasis where he likes. The music is perpetual and entrancing. It’s so hypnotic in its self-indulgence that I would have not minded it lasting five more minutes, but Burg knows the value of a tease at a run time of 1:37.
The second track, “Sooner I Wish,” opens with some seemingly random high-pitched plucks of the guitar that offers a misleading tone to the song that ultimately takes shape. It actually has a similar repetitious manner as “Three Way Answers” but on a faster tempo. Fuzzy reverb creates an audio hallucinatory effect of more than one guitar bashing out the hook, and the intro that opened the track seems to haunt the rest of the song in the background, barely there, as if it were an echo from a previous time. Creepy.
“Here Come the Warm Regrets” follows with a more ominous feel. The only instrumental on the 7-inch is propelled by a sinister guitar line that sounds like the beginning of a Sonic Youth song that never goes beyond its opening. To tease you, an elastic guitar solo appears from the corner to bend out whiny, steady guitar notes. When the guitar seems to tire, a melodica appears to take over the same series of notes before the song trickles to a halt. Going back further than the nineties aesthetic that influences this 7-inch, anyone who knows Brian Eno’s oeuvre will pick out not only the titular allusion of “Here Come the Warm Regrets” to Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” but also the fuzzed out, musical references to the unrelenting distorted guitars that propelled the 1973 song, which closed out Eno’s debut album of the same name. This is the sort of hefty substance behind “Sooner I Wish” that makes it stand up beyond its reference to nineties indie rock. It reaches back to the art rock that came before it, even if only in sly reference.
The 7-inch closes with “Want,” which adds on layers of hooks. A ringing guitar part propels the song as a lushly strummed hook is coated over it. Never have I heard such a flagrant abuse of the loop pedal with such simple, indulgent results and loved it as much as this little record. All the tracks on this 7-inch seem constructed on hooks alone and never let go of their grooves. There’s an over-the-top indulgence that gives every track a delightful, mesmerizing quality.
As a whole, “Sooner I Wish” has a lo-fi, fuzzy quality throughout, permeated with a reverb seemingly created from the levels recorded too high. As is the case with many of the great lo-fi recordings that defined the nineties, a subtle psycho-acoustic effect emerges that invites interpretation from the listener. Maybe some listeners will notice phantom melodies that accompany the music, recalling some of the best creators of lo-fi music working on low-grade recording equipment like Guided By Voices, early Dinosaur Jr. and Smog.
In the end, Burg never gives up on what I liked best about the lo-fi rock of the early to mid-nineties: this love of catchy, perpetual electric guitar lines that never stop or even slow down to take a breath. Love of Everything brings it to the edge and takes a flying leap with fuzzy guitars blaring.
*In the nineties, McCaughan founded Merge Records, which recently made rock history as the first indie label to earn a Grammy with Arcade Fire’s latest, the Suburbs. Arcade Fire has been on the label since thier first album brought them word-of-mouth buzz by many popular bands and musicians, including David Bowie, back in 2004.