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Various Artists | Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel (Off)
First things first, I'm no fan of rock operas or concept albums in general and was only attracted to Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel because of the stellar cast of participants ?? GbV, Malkmus, Gelb, Barlow, Grandaddy et al., all contributing exclusive material. I won't go into detail describing the concept ?? the life of the eponymous soldier ?? because it's secondary to the tunes and barely coherent to boot. As a compilation album, it's largely a success because the artists are given free rein to express themselves and the results are anything but formulaic. Guided by Voices bookend the album with the rocking Vitus and Strident Wet Nurse and the reprise Destroying Jeffrey. Stephen Malkmus' contribution, Blue Rash Intact (quarantined ?? strong hallucinations due to severe allergies) is an uncharacteristic, almost-techno novelty that pales next to the best material on his recent solo album. Much better is Ann Magnuson and Dave Rick's Dr Mom, a glorious guitar-heavy sprawl midway between Bardo Pond and Bongwater. Howe Gelb's Hooker Instead grafts piano flourishes onto an otherwise intimate backporch guitar and vocal workout, Grandaddy's L.F.O. is lush and languid and Macha take the Chicago post-rock template and throw in bagpipes and vocoder to unusual effect. Also worthy of mention are Mary Timony, Quasi and Weird War (aka The Make-Up), whose I'll Never Forget What's His Name finds them in slow-burn gospel yeh-yeh mode. Best of the bunch by far (and worth the price of admission alone) is Sentridoh (Lou Barlow solo) with Morning's After Me, a typically affecting acoustic folk song that recalls his early 1990s prime, when he seemed to be releasing an album of this sort of stuff every week. It's a hugely welcome return to form after the disappointment of the last two Sebadoh albums and the complete anti-climax of last year's Subsonic 6 outing.

Steve Raywood
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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