Sunday, January 07, 2007

Eric Gaffney

Uncharted Waters
Eric is still cleaning out his vaults, and he is finding some gold. This is the second release that spans nearly a decade of material (the first being Brilliant Concert Numbers). It dates roughly from when he left Sebadoh to the present. Going back and listening to the Sebadoh III reissue one realizes what a valued contribution he made to that era of the band. One might consider a 27 track CD excessive, but there is little fat that needs to be trimmed from this fine disc.

“Cold Weather” & “Twilight” could fit very easily on to any one of the Sebadoh albums to which Eric contributed. “Leave me Alone” has a great sitar on it; the song has the same feel of songs from the Brilliant Concert Numbers' disc. There is a bit of woe is me on “Gone Wrong.” Eric’s self-pitying, yet perfect lyrics are the highlight of the song, “When did I go wrong? When did all the fun Stop? How did I do you wrong?”

One of my favorite songs on the entire disc is “Shark Attack.” The first couple of lines capture the mood of winter in San Francisco, “Another dreary day in the bay. Raining in the wintertime, Letting go of relationships. Getting thinner all the time.” The next line is a left hook out of nowhere, “You hit me faster than a shark attack. Baby how you fooled me.” The funny imagery of the shark attack takes some of the sting out of the punch. What could be a thoroughly depressing song only seems sweetly sad. Eric is still in touch with his inner desperate, randy 15 year old self on “I Want a Woman.” Who wouldn’t want a woman who “takes baths” or “stays the night?”

If Eric ever gets tired of being an iconic Indy Rock Star, he might have a future writing children’s songs like, “Punk Rock Monkey” Maybe just leave out the violent imagery of “Kicking Bears in the Air for all to see.” (Just for the kids, I love the line in the song). “Puzzle Piece” is the second song about a monkey. Any songs about monkeys are terrific in my book.

Another gem on this disc is “Baker Street,” “Another Year & you will be happy. Just one more year and you will be happy, but you’re crying now.” The sadness of the lyrics is under cut by odd cartoon voices. The combination of humor and sorrow is one of Eric’s song writing trademarks. Humor is what is so sorely lacking in the current crop of Indy darlings who are now signed to major labels, I won’t name names. Don’t worry, not all the songs on this disc are down in the dumps. There are some rockers, like the blistering “Stampede Caribou Recipe” and the guitar wanktopia (in a totally good way) of “Flash Flood Advisory.”

The most inspired song on the disc is the last tune “Life isn’t fun anymore.” More powerful than Xanax or Prozac, this song will put a smile on your face. Eric's wife Janice sings in a vaguely European accent that “Life isn’t fun anymore.” The funniest line in the song and the entire album is when Janice demands, “Where is my pot of gold? Where is my winning lottery ticket? It smashed on the floor! Life isn’t fun anymore God damn it!” This is a great song to put on repeat to defeat any down in the dumps mood.

While the 27 track length might seem daunting, it is well worth the time to listen to it all. I am pleased to hear that the original line up of Sebadoh (Lou, Jason & Eric) is getting back together. Maybe now Gaffney will finally get the credit he deserves for the greatness of that band (hopefully he will get a little paper while he is at it). If this disc is an example of the songs that Eric still has in him, I can not wait to see what his future holds for him working as a single artist or as part of a group. (Handmade Records/ Old Gold) (Dan Cohoon)