Goin’ Back To Tucson
September 2003 ““ Vikas Likes Red?
By Matt Brown
Some famous wiseass once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” (and the first five people not named Matt Ashworth to correctly name this pithy a-hole get a mix CD from yours truly”¦ email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org and cross your fingers.) and I’d be inclined to agree if I didn’t enjoy writers like Ralph Ellison and Joe Carducci so damned much. This month’s edifices that I’m West Coast poplocking in honor of happen to be a dude named Vikas Pawa and, at no additional charge, the bands he’s been recording over at I Like Red Studios here in the Old Pueblo.
Tucson is a true frontier town in the sense that most of its residents seem to have arrived from elsewhere. For Mr. Pawa, “elsewhere” is Thailand by way of Singapore through Hawaii with a lengthy stay in upstate New York. (I’m just reading his press release”¦ I’ll tell you his full story in a future column after I pull him aside, buy him a Kiltlifter and ask him a few questions.) Since 1997 he’s played in several bands in Tucson, most recently an outfit named I Like Red, while he records bands at I Like Red Studios and releases albums through I Like Red Recordings (selling them on his website, www.ilkered.com.) This summer, three notable local releases came out of I Like Red Studios in rapid succession”¦
The Season kicks off with Yellow Cabs’ strongest song, “Big Boy Bed”, and immediately highlights Vikas’s skills behind the mixing board. Frontman Chris Morrison’s bass guitar introduces the album with a sound so deliciously thick and crisp I replayed the first six seconds of the track four or five times in a row before finally listening to the whole song. Tasty! The Cabs play the kind of uptempo, guitar-driven psych-pop that Love Battery used to dish out back in the early “˜90s. “Guitar-driven” in a big way; Pete Grosso drives his Gretsch like a motherfucker, particularly on his surf-abilly instrumental showcase “The Hamilton.” Morrison’s vocals have a delicate, vulnerable quality on “Who’s Good Word” (sic) and “Metropolis” that contrast well with the muscular backing instrumentation. New drummer Morgan Schlaline isn’t featured on this album, but another one of his projects, Tucson’s self-proclaimed “favorite rock duo”, recently released their first record”¦ – (7/10)
Morgan and his accomplice Vic Newman have to be seen live to be truly appreciated (you might want a beer or three, as well) but Suck does a fair job of capturing their goofy onstage chemistry. Morgan has a talent for crafting simple little pop songs with a quirkiness that will make you laugh”¦ until you realize that they’ve freakin’ drilled into your brain and will never, ever leave. You’ve been warned. “The Laundromat Song” is evocative of The Modern Lovers in its piercingly funny account of a guy whose well-intentioned attempt to hit on a pretty girl ends miserably. “Adobe Abode” ably captures the sweaty discomfort of Tucson’s hellish summers as Vic’s lead guitar track shimmers and melts in and out of tune. “British Robot” ranks alongside M.C. Chris’s “Fett’s Vette” and The Greenhouse Effect’s “Lando” as “Funniest Song Inspired By A Lucasfilm Production” and features the two most dubious English accents you’ll hear outside of a high school drama class. Five of the fifteen cuts find The Croutons expanded from duo to full band as Vikas (on drums ““ he also recorded and mixed the record. He even contributed a nifty guitar solo to “The Ballad of Canada Dan”) and the aforementioned Chris Morrison (playing bass, still thick and crisp) replace the preprogrammed boombox rhythm section of the Croutons’ live sets. Fun stuff, and the best glimpse of these guys a lot of you non-Tucsonans will get”¦ until some enterprising genius releases a “Croutons Come Alive” concert DVD! – (7/10)
Considered to Tears
I Like Red Recordings
This is where Vikas pulls out all of the stops as a producer, assumedly because Nowhere Man is Vikas Pawa. I may not be qualified to comment much upon the fancy-schmancy electronic instrumentation that gives this album a lot of its flavor. I am a simple man in love with wire and wood and Marshall amplifiers. However, when it comes to a critique of whatcha call your “singer-songwriters”, I definitely know my Finns from my McGuinns. This is absolutely one hell of a good record. As a document of late-twenties/early-thirties malaise in the year 2003, Considered to Tears can go right in the time capsule with a bottle of Zoloft, signed divorce papers and an 18-pack of MGD. Somehow, Vikas manages to deliver some depressing lyrics with a conspiring wink. In the bouncy opening track “100 Lies” he cheerfully shreds any myth of a happy afterlife and unapologetically sings, “My instincts tell me there is only death.” Ahh shucks! When Vikas begins “Ornery” (my new theme song, alongside James Brown’s “Superbad Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4″) with the line “It’s time we face the truth and realize there’s nothing more to do”¦” it’s delivered with more of a “what’s next” shrug than as a whiny complaint. I can hardly wait to discuss my misinterpretations of his work with him. Stay tuned. – (8/10)
Enough of the summer love fest. If you’re a musician living in Tucson, Oro Valley, Sierra Vista or pretty much anywhere else in the American Southwest who would like your carefully crafted recordings dissed online by a complete stranger, email me at the above address for my current physical location (usually near the jukebox at the Buffet or happily passed out on someone’s couch”¦) You’ll be lining up with fine folks like Studebakerhawk, Bandye, Camp Courageous and Son Atlas to taste my venom. Howe Gelb and Eddie Spaghetti need not apply. Cheers!