Last Days of the Central Freeway
Devil in the Woods
Lightning in a Bottle
Devil in the Woods
On their third, full-length release, San Francisco’s Snowmen come off like Mercury Rev’s touched younger brother. Being aficionados of the four-track, home studio approach, Snowmen have allowed the experimentation going on over the course of these fifteen songs to go completely unchecked. And you know that can’t be bad. The narcotic, sustained hum of singer/guitarist Cole Marquis’ open guitar tunings winding lazily through “Closer” and “Off The Bow” make for some first-rate nod out music. “Golden Slivers” sounds as if all the instruments were processed through a kazoo, while the droning guitar and meandering lyrics of “Polar Bears” are very reminiscent of Chronic Town -era REM, at half speed. Despite those moments when it sounds like the aural equivalent of running through mud, this record oozes with effortless beauty. Low-fi, self-indulgence aside, any cut on Last Days of the Central Freeway is still about a million billion times better than anything you’re going to hear on the radio.
Coinciding with the release of a new Snowmen record, we find Cole Marquis doing his own thing on Lightning in a Bottle . Alone with his guitar and a Tascam 244 Portastudio, Marquis can freely explore the expansive realm of his exceptionally tweaked brain. “How exactly does a Cole Marquis solo album differ from a Snowmen album?” you ask. Well, why not consider it to be the “Snowmen unplugged” recordings or Marquis’ “Nebraska period” album. Songs like “Hand Grenade” (an ode to self-destruction) and “Umbrella” (an oddly askew lullaby) “celebrate” white trash nowhere land while liberally dosing the listener with soporific sweetness. I’m going to venture out on a limb and guess that Marquis has probably eaten a big handful of acid in his creative life span, considering that the exceptionally languid-yet-ethereal cover of “I Only Have Eyes for You” sounds like it was lifted off the Eraserhead soundtrack. “Incredible Shrinking Man” earns the best-song-on-the-record distinction in its first 20 seconds (Marquis should have left it as an instrumental) and “Drop of Sleep” uncannily captures the dreamer’s resistance to enter the world of the waking. With or without the Snowmen, the effect of Cole Marquis’ music is cumulative, with addiction a possible outcome. Forget Marilyn Manson, the real Dope Show is right here.