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The Red Thread | After The Last (Badman)
Refreshingly old-school in its production values and instrumentation, this new vehicle for the songs of Jason Lakis (ex-Half Film) relies solidly upon his gifts for songwriting and conjuring memorable phrases from either his voice or his guitar. Backed up by fellow San Francisco residents Daryle Goldfarb, Mike Schmiedt and Steve Tounsand (collectively The Inspectors), who provide a rhythm section, additional guitar, vibes and Wurlitzer, Lakis' compositions side-step simple categorisation as standard singer-songwriter fare due to his grasp of band dynamics, and subtlety of touch. Hence the intro to 5 evokes 'Reckoning'-era REM before entering Calexico territory, all the while reminiscent of Karate's more laid-back excursions, yet never appearing contrived. At times it's fair to say that The Red Thread utilise Americana in much the same way that Karate infuse their brand of indie-rock with jazz, that's to say both are more than adept at breaking down musical divides without resorting to clumsy fusion. Hence flourishes of pedal steel are employed to serve 'After The Last' rather than appear tacked-on or gimmicky. Lakis is not averse to an extended guitar break either and, like Geoff Farina, understands the emotional impact of a non-vocal declaration. In the end, the album's lack of affectations will probably see it disregarded by those who demand 'more' from an artist, but in a world where integrity and undeviating charm count for something, 'After The Last' will abide.

Matt Dornan
March-April 2003