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Various Artists | Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel (Off Records)
Exploring the packaging of Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel promises much, with its garish, wacky cartoons and unhinged, excited sleeve notes. The stellar line-up includes a group of drool-inducing leftfield pop heavyweights that would be reason enough to grab this without a second thought. But I say to you, be warned! This is nothing but an ill-judged loose concept album, dreamed up by a (fortunately admittedly connected) gentleman called Chris Susarenko, seemingly over elevenses. Quite what is going on narratively becomes totally irrelevant very quickly, the quality of music often so dire as to bring on a migraine. Sounding at times as if recorded in a swamp, we are presented with Guided By Voices by-numbers, disposable electro-junk from Stephen Malkmus and Helium's Mary Timony, neo-psychedelic tat from The Minus Five, and other tripe from other fools that seriously are not worthy of a mention. The normally reliable Quasi and Howe Gelb contribute the worst of their outtakes; there's a pleasant acoustic strum with a barely audible vocal from Lou Barlow in Sentridoh guise, and a desperately depressing dirge from The Black Heart Procession, where even the trademark piano and singing-saw sound thoroughly bored with proceedings. Only two tracks arouse any interest: Brothers Joshua and Mischo McKay's Macha mix things up a little, utilising fuzz-bass, vocoder and bagpipes to ease the dreariness, and Grandaddy's grandiose L.F.O. - previously a UK vinyl-only only b-side - at least provides a few minutes of grace. Uninterrupted, CJP is a gruelling listen, and I wouldn't wish most of it upon my worst enemy.

Tom Sheriff
June-July 2001