DESERT AFTER RAIN

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I JUST NEED SOMEONE TO TELL ME HOW TALL I AM

Review: Pop Matters

By Devon Powers

There are certain things that make spaces feel homier: your favorite blanket slung over the couch, childhood photos propped in frames, a calendar scrawled with friends' birthdays, vacations, parents' anniversary. And, from this home-base emanates the comfort that spawns a certain type of creative energy -- the kind that bakes a rich bread, or fills a journal with the milk of one's heart and soul.

On their current album, Road Movies, Minibar have created a sound that both derives from and produces a distinctly at-home ambiance. The folksy ways of this London-cum-California outfit have a belly-warming zeal; musically it's straightforward and lyrically it's honest. All in all, this collection of songs is a hearty aural stew, savory and good to the last drop.

Take "Sheer Volume of Traffic" as a microcosm of the album's world. After a wash of mid-tempo and slower numbers comes this languid, watery ballad. It opens with a cool interlude, then Simon Petty's voice sails in, almost naked:

"We're all worried about / What's up ahead / Are there fire engines / Are there people dead? / Are there lights and sirens? / Are there banks of fog? / Are there filter systems / Are there acts of god?"

This inert yet panicked state extends back into the narrator's own life, as he worries about his own relationships, future, and actions. It's a beautiful, emblematic example of the easy segue between concern for others and concern for the self, woven into a tapestry of unhurried guitars, deliberative bass, and faraway drums.

But this magic starts much earlier, with the full and lush first track, "Holiday from Myself", a wrangling number that sets up, thematically, both the sound and the plot of the record. This self-reflexive speculation is spelled out here -- "I think I need a holiday from myself / I need some time away from me / I'm worried about my health / And I seem to be bad company" -- and the simple, tight guitar and backgrounding bass and drums almost sound like a solo jam session.

Just about every track is a highlight. Indeed, this is the kind of album where there's no point in deciding on a favorite track, because it will change with every listen, every mood. The songs are sweet and trusty, deep and contemplative, neurotic and troubled; you come to know them as you do your most intimate friends. Through the observations, hypotheses, and disassociations, Minibar artfully tell stories that could easily be your own -- stories of here and there, of give and take, of what could be and what probably shouldn't have been. With the sincerity of Elliot Smith and the spirit of the Wallflowers or Wilco, they are a balm, a panacea, a cure for pain. And, most certainly, a message from home.

From PopMatters Magazine
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Last updated: Oct 01, 2006 - 04:08 PM PDT

Fly Below The Radar
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The Unstoppable EP
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Road Movies
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