Contrary to what the press release states, The
Glands are not a band that 'lacks direction'. Whilst
it may be true that the band members 'have more personalities
and mood swings than a menopausal Cybil', their self-titled
debut for Capricorn Records is another indisputable,
mis-chord shaped classic.
Formed in 1996, studio and sonic misfits, Ross
Shapiro (vocals/guitar) and drummer Joe Row released
their independent debut album, Double Thriller, in early
1997. With a modicum of critical success, however, the
album was snatched up and re-released by Bar None Records
Part Guided By Voices, part Big Star, part Nick Cave,
the album amply demonstrated that there was a dark,
mis-shapen heart to Athens, Georgia. This disproportionate
and hip college town has legend of two polarities: the
tirelessly jangly (REM) and the marvellously goofy (as
in the B52s). If ever a happy, discordant medium was
needed to be struck, the Glands have sure as hell struck
it, and struck it well.
Shapiro himself, likens the band's first album, 'Double
Thriller' to a 'photo album of a particular place and
time'. The place was, for the most part, a new studio
across from the legendary 40 Watt Club. The time? The
small hours before dawn, when itinerant musicians straggling
from the 40 Watt might be looking for somewhere else
to go. And it's out of this makeshift throng of stragglers
that this unfathomable, but infectious sound emerged.
And since signing to Capricorn, nothing much seems to
Like the previous release, The Glands is a grab-bag
of rainbow melodies and songs culled from various studio
sessions; several of which were recorded with Andy Baker
at Chase Park Transduction while others were finished
at Elixir Studio with engineer Peter Fancher (whose
credits include, Sugar) and at home on the band's own
Says Shapiro. "At least half of it is more guitar-rock
oriented. There's some slow dirges that are a little
more atmospheric. There's a few that are low and slow.
And there are some oddities, too. I think it will sound
better than Double Thriller - that album was kind of
a mish-mosh and parts of this are kind of a mish-mosh...
I guess I can't really compare them."
And as Shaprio says, these songs are indeed quite difficult
Close in spirit to the likes of Sparklehorse, Swell,
and Grandaddy in their alternative country slacker mentality,
and yet joyfully wound up in the early seventies curiosity
shop of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and Zappa,
The Glands is a twangy, tortuous Wurlitzer ride of an
album: lo-fi aesthetic meets wall of sound skill. With
adept uplifting harmonies and tirelessly sing along
choruses, the core of the album's charm is that it at
once embraces and repels the raw, standard algorithms
of plug in and play it rock n' roll: heart in the right
place, and head in the clouds both. This is an album
done by anything but numbers.
Cheerfully buoyant and offbeat throughout, the opening
song, 'Livin' Was Easy' has the sights, the smells,
and the taste's of a slacker's downtown apartment coupled
with the idle magic slides of a bottleneck guitar and
the mid-country buzz of a mouth-organ. It's mad, it's
loopy, yes - but it has the studied mis-contexting of
a major cult classic.
Take next, a little Ben Folds and ELO piano-psychedelia
and you have the effervescent, 'Swim'. It's playful,
it's idiosyncratic and really very, very, very enjoyable.
That the record is also pleasantly schizoid is of course
perfectly obvious. They don't come much more tender
than, 'Fortress', nor as painfully wistful as standout
track, 'Favourite Amercian' - evoking the very best
out of Coyne's psychedelic medical trip, the Flaming
Lips and the socio-eccentric commentaries of Young in
I played the album once and was instantly won over.
Pure driving music with the ageless knack of having
all the solos in the right places, it's madness kept
in check and it's eagerness to please offset by it's
equal tendency to deliver.
Mad as cheese, yes, but in a good way, not too forced
and not too 'zany'. The obscure Soft Bulletin of 2001
without a doubt. Please don't pass this band over just
because you didn't catch them first on MTV.
Alan Sargeant for Crud Magazine© 2001