Ok, I admit it... I'm stark raving nuts for this band. In the First
Canadian Rock Critics Poll I voted for Dramrama's Vinyl as my
fave album of 1991. In the third annual poll, Hi-Fi Sci-Fi went to
toppermost of my poppermost of '93.
And there's absolutely no reason in the world why Looking Through... won't make Number One in the fourth annual poll, coming next week. And further, I admit everybody in the music department here at eye takes pity on me. After Elektra droppedDramarama from their roster last year, they said, "don't worry Bill, they'll bounce back somewhere." Well, maybe, if writer and singer John Easdale and company find label that's smart enough to hang onto them.
In the meantime, this fabulous 20 song arty-fact has arrived to ease the frustration. Seems the boys recorded about three albums worth of material during the sessions for Stuck In Wonderamaland in 1988, and now a few fanatics who go by the moniker of eggBERT Records have issued all the remaining goodies, including four fab cover versions: The Monkees' "Sweet Young Thing," which is like "Last train to Clarksville" except it's about being there instead of getting there, and rocks much harder;The Faces' "Ooh La La," in which "The Singer" does a credible Rod The Mod imitation, yet manages to retain his own craggy, raspy tone; Marc Bolans fabulously spaced-out hippie wisdom of "Sun Eye"; and the lead-off cruncher, "I Don't Know Why," a Stevie Wonder tune given the hard but funky treatment.
The remaining 16 tracks divide pretty evenly between full-scale rock
arrangements and acoustic guitar driven ballads, and everything sounds like
first or second takes in preproduction. The appeal of this six-year-old album
lies in its immediacy and rawness. While not a lo-fi experience (at least
according to current alterno-rock sensibilities), it has none of the final
polish that was applied to Wonderamaland, no extra reverb or delay added
to the voice, none of the flat harshness embellished, none of the guitar solos
too neatly EQed. So, while immediately jarring, it's charming lack of studio
subtlety quickly wins out. (Not to mention the usual excellent songwriting, and
the fact that the one repeat from any other album -- "Long Long Gone"
from Wonderamaland - is given a starker reading.)