Saturday, November 1, 2008

Eric's Trip - Love Tara

Eric's Trip - Love Tara

I had a chance earlier this year to see Eric’s Trip in concert. I didn’t, because it was at some club that requires membership to get in and it seemed like a pain in the ass to go through and they wanted five bucks or so for membership, but if I had, you can sure bet it would have made an interesting story to recount here.

Oh well. (True story too!)

Eric’s Trip was a Canadian indie rock band hailing from the listless shores of New Brunswick. They formed in 1990, and, after a number of demo tapes, were signed to Sub Pop records at the peak of their post-Nirvana influence. In 1993, they set out to record their first album for Sub Pop, ending up with Love Tara, a collection of garage-rock influenced, lo-fi love songs. They broke up in 1996, but have reformed multiple times throughout this decade to tour and play particular events.

I first found out about these guys a few years back while doing random searches as inspired by awesome songs (As you may as well have gleamed, I have no good stories about finding out about bands. Just random shit I found online while I was bored. Stay tuned for a future post in which I tell you about that one time, at the bank, when I deposited a check and the teller gave me a dirty look and I’m like what? and yeah pretty cool right). I figured hey, anyone who would name themselves after a Sonic Youth song with some of my all-time favourite lyrics probably has good enough taste in music to make some good stuff themselves. And lo, I was right. I just didn’t expect them to be this good.

Eric’s Trip’s sound is not the hardest to describe. Think of stereotypical folk-inspired indie rock, from the time before it became popular to emulate crappy post-punk from the 80’s and call it indie regardless of what label they’re on (no disrespect to all the good bands who were emulated as well). Add in conditional use of the electric guitar, and fill the recoding with all the crackling distortion of an overplayed vinyl record, and voila: pure, heartfelt lo-fi indie glory. This is music that you could imagine listening to before a roaring fire on an Autumn day; delicate enough to set the mood, but not content just to linger aimlessly in the background as first-date muzak. Singer/guitarist Rick White described their sound as "sappy melodic pop music on top of thick distortion”, and that’s probably a good way of summing it up. It’s a very simple formula the band uses, combining the softness of folk and the noisiness and anguish of grunge, but they utilize it to perfection. In fact, I’d go as far as to call Love Tara one of the best indie records of the 90’s, an all-too unknown masterpiece, and put Eric’s Trip well ahead of their more well-known contemporaries such as Pavement and Built to Spill.

Much of what makes this album great comes in the vocals, which are shared between Rick White and Julie Doiron with White taking the brunt of the duties on this album (also, both share guitar/bass duties alongside fellow guitarist/bassist Chris Thompson). Both White and Doiron display a great amount of tenderness and care in their deliveries, which does well to enhance the sincerity in lines like “looking around for an extra person in my life to call my friend” and “how come it upsets you so/shouldn't it be me who feels uneased”. The lyrics tend to fit into a very conversational style, with the songs mostly being person-to-person tales of love or regret, communicated with a muted sadness by the band’s vocalists. That they come off as so genuine can be put on White and Doiron themselves (especially White), who sing in very soft and melancholic tones, almost to the point of whispering at points (“Behind the Garage” being an excellent example). The way this album is produced is notable too in this sense, as the sound fashioned here takes on a very warm and personable style. The background noise on “May 11” for example, suggests a real-world atmosphere, as if the singing is just one half of a conversation we’re not getting all of. When White or Doiron sing, the clearness of their vocals in the otherwise often distortion-fueled mix helps communicate the band’s message as heartfelt and honest. Another example of a strong effect utilized by the band is showcased in the song “Frame”, which pits White’s soft croons against a very jagged riff, placing the delicacy of his delivery against the overlying sharpness of the guitar. The ensuing contrast is quite powerful, as White’s fragile voice is swallowed up by the strident waves of distortions, overcome by the power of the amplifier.

With Love Tara, Eric’s Trip not only put out an outstanding debut, but a lo-fi indie classic. The distortion, the folksy warmth, the emotional, utterly personal song-writing, all standards Eric’s Trip would uphold throughout their career, but possibly none used to the same success as on the band’s debut album. What we have here is marvellously minimal indie rock, adorned with lyrically relatable feelings regarding love, alienation and friendship. Put it on, sit by the fire, and watch the leaves envelop the ground outside your window, as they desert the now barren trees from which they fell.

Love Tara


cretin said...

so I was sitting there thinking 'hey what should i do should i study or should i GIVE THE PEOPLES AWESOME MUSICS'

and now that i've said that no one will comment cuz it'll be ironic and i'll be all AHHHG I'M ALONE

or perhaps something infinitely more macho

geez i gotta study!!!

Pidgey said...

I'm commenting because you said no one would.
Also because I'm thankful for the music upping.
But mostly the other thing.

cretin said...

dammit, and i was so sure, too!!

perhaps my ability to see into the future and predict its course based solely on what would be most ironic is somewhat unreliable? PERHAPS.

Anonymous said...