From Austin, Texas, come these Weeds, a three-piece here presenting their third album. It’s a highly polished and confident slab of experimental pop, rising adroitly to the challenge of mastering the contradictions that description implies. For while the Weird Weeds certainly know how to explore unusual and disruptive instrumental textures, they also never stray far from the direct, communicative impulse that characterises great pop.
An indication of just how good the Weeds are is given by the fact that oddball loner artist Jandek chose their drummer, Nick Hennies, to play in his pick-up band for an Austin concert in 2005. Jandek, for all his wilful eccentricity, is meticulous when it comes to live performances, and his choice of Hennies is a testament to the latter’s skill and panache as a sticksman. On I Miss This, he’s joined by Sandy Ewen (guitar, accordion and vocals) and Aaron Russell (guitar, bass and vocals) as they skip their way through 14 short, perfectly crafted mini-dramas.
The album is a melting-pot of influences, but always succeeds in finding its own voice in the midst of them. I hear echoes of Low in the poised male/female duo singing of “A Goose,” and of REM in the crunchy swagger of the electric guitar in “Lies.” The Weeds also draw inspiration from the gentler and more pastoral moments of 70s progressive rock bands like King Crimson, Henry Cow and even Genesis. (It’s not a crime to sound like any of these in my book, by the way.) Ewen sings lead on most tracks, bringing a touch of 60s flower-child rock to proceedings. Russell’s guitar work, meanwhile, ranges from jagged riffing to twinkling melodic interludes.
Some of the songs are too short, alighting on ideas that it would have been intriguing to hear being developed at length. But this brevity is also a virtue, allowing the Weeds to demonstrate their undoubted skills as purveyors of winning, kaleidoscopic pop visions.
(originally published in The Sound Projector 17, 2008)