Soaking in the Center of the Universe – Review

Soaking in the Center of the Universe

Vol. 2 (Spongebath)
by Scott Hefflon

This is one of those label sampler things which, usually, are pretty self-congratulatory, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s me. Spongebath has a cool story behind it, but I can’t remember what it is. What I can tell is that this fledgling label in Murfreesboro, TN, a real musical Mecca (yeah, right), has got some fun, quirky, diverse bands on their roster. Bands that I hadn’t heard of, but bands I’m glad I’m becoming familiar with. Each band has two consecutive tracks, thus giving a fuller feeling for each. Soaking… opens with Self, a demented, noisily-orchestrated yet richly harmonied Beatles-inspired band with impressive range – “weird” and unfamiliar, yet hinting at themes that are familiar. Following is The C-60s, a kinda jerky guitar pop prog band who write well-crafted songs, yet spiral oddly into musical phrases that’ll have you dancing like an epileptic. Or a very white guy. Next up is Fl. Oz., a fantastic band that’ll appeal to anyone into the alterna-sounds of Ben Folds Five or Squirrel Nut Zippers. “Record Stack” has the same smoky, drunken slur (musically, that is) of Firewater, the downbeat cha-cha-cha offset with a punk/polka chorus of “La-da, la-da-de-die,” and lyrics that make me wish I had a lyric sheet. “Milk Moustache” opens sounding like what Billy Joel’d sound like if he were young and zany. Almost ska-ish piano creates a carnival atmosphere, mixed in with Queenesque harmonies at times, and melodies that I can’t quite place (Squeeze, perhaps?), but that are off-kilter pop through and through. Count Bass-D is, um, urban, I guess. I know nothing about this kinda music because I don’t like it. Fleshpaint is oddly melodic, kinda dancy (the first track is more valium-induced sway), distorted in that God Lives Underwater-kinda way, and while there are guitars chugging along, this is far from, like, grinding industrial something-core. Refreshing. The Features saunter between Tom Petty territory and rainbow-swirl bubblegum. The second song has a more emotive vocal thing going on that makes me retch, but lots of people seem to like the Counting Crows, Live, and all that rubbish, so to each their own. From Jellyfish goofiness to Petty crooning… hmmm. The Katies‘ production is offsetting (trebly guitars riffing away, drums that sound like styrofoam cups and wafer-thin cymbal crashes), but the arm-swingin’ guitars and rant-a-long vocals (“heavy as a cool breeze, double tuck the shirtsleeves, covered in the sunbeams, bustin’ through the one wisp cloud, don’t bother to bring me down”) really hit their mark. The song’s called “Hairclip,” and again, I wish there were lyric sheets. The Roaries first song reminds me of what I liked about the first couple Goo Goo Dolls records, but less vocally precise. There’s a lot of guitar rock in the power popping, but, to quote “Easy,” “That’s OK.” The second track, “Day Dreamer,” is kinda slow and lazy (think “Feelin’ Groovy”), with that reaching “God only know what I feel about you” vocal, only not as good. Not the track I’d’ve used to close out the disc.

(101 North Maple St. Murfreesboro, TN 37130)