Road Star Doolittle (Five One Inc.)
by Tim Den
It’s a shame that Poor Rich Ones and William Hut aren’t household names in the U.S.. Without a doubt the best band in the “dramatic rock” genre, Poor Rich Ones (led by guitarist/vocalist Hut) have perfected their soaring, sky-ripping tragic beauty over three full-lengths and a handful of EPs. Winners of the Norwegian Grammy and adored by British press, their ethereal sadness and crisp melodies have star producer Mark Trombino declaring them the best band he’s ever heard.
Joe Maynard’s Favourites, a best-of collection that covers the band’s pre-Happy Happy Happy work, shows again why Poor Rich Ones’ U.S. anonymity is simply criminal. Opener (and new song) “Milwaukee” (the first recording to feature new guitarist Eivind and keyboardist Bjørn) is not only one of the band’s best, its transcendental magic squashes any post-OK Computer Radiohead output, as well as every Britpop band in sight. Trickling bleeps, rising atmospheres, and Hut’s trademark angelic vocals (it’s hard to believe a man can sing that high) calling out to the heavens: Songwriting and pure genius don’t get any closer than this. The scariest thing is that, as incomprehensibly amazing as the individual parts are, Poor Rich Ones somehow capture an overall feeling of winter that no other self-described “sulk rock” band can. And it’s not a detached, frozen feeling, it’s the sense that – even in the heart of Norway’s tundra – a sense of warmth can be felt through nature’s decay. If you don’t already own Happy Happy Happy, get it NOW. Then pick up Joe Maynard’s Favourites and do your history homework.
If Poor Rich Ones are the smokey chimney on top of the ice-surrounded log cabin, then Road Star Doolittle – Hut’s solo debut – is the hermit inside the house keeping a low profile. Hut’s solo work is much more subdued and sparse than his band’s dramatic sonic sculptures. Instead of layering otherworldly instruments to paint a cosmic picture, Road Star Dolittle is mainly Hut keeping his falsetto in the drawer and himself company with an acoustic. The intimacy of the almost lo-fi recording breathes new understanding of this man’s talent. If the world lost its electricity, Hut would still be able to melt your soul with just his voice and a guitar. Cuz really, it’s all about his voice. As he sleepily croons through the thick melancholia of “Scarlet” and “Too Many,” you can’t help but wonder how crap like Bright Eyes are worshiped instead of this man. Seductive and with the stripped-down grandeur of Mercury Rev, Road Star Doolittle is both the perfect companion to Poor Rich Ones’ works and a rediscovery of “the voice.”
So what are you waiting for? The heart of winter calls!
(PO Box 1868 Santa Monica, CA 90406)