The Big Thieves Jail the Little Thieves
The two most recent discs that I’ve received are cases of mistaken identity, but welcomed surprises nonetheless.
Jim Greer, the one responsible for The Big Thieves Jail the Little Thieves, is not the Greer who made a brief appearance in the Guided by Voices revolving lineup several years back. Ironically, this Jim Greer’s craft is somewhat analogous to GBV’s mastermind Robert Pollard. Greer is a singer/songwriter who revels in eclecticism and disregard for traditional form. On the surface, a song sounds familiar, but with a more careful listen, we realize the intricacies to his craft; the unusual bends in a melodic line, like the verse to the folk-adelic opener, “Perfect Trees.” The second track, “In The Nightfall,” stretches out into a spaced-out groove that reveals his penchant for soulful sounds. The backbeat on “This is What I Mean” serves as confirmation for his involvement in the DJ culture (he has worked with the likes of San Francisco’s DJ Quest, among others). “Tim vs. the Grizzly” finds Greer at his most experimental. An atmospheric piece with ambient keyboards and an occasional unintelligible lyric, this one may lose less adventurous listeners. The album’s most conventional track, “What You Might Have Done,” shows Greer’s versatility, proving that a simple acoustic ditty coupled with a catchy finger snapping hook is sometimes all you need.
Gifthorse, the one from Charlottesville, VA, is not the band I thought I’d be listening to. After a recent favorable live experience with another band sharing the same moniker, my interest was piqued when I laid my hands on this one. Even though I realized it was another case of mistaken identity, I was not to be disappointed. Remember when D.I.Y. rock scratched the surface of mainstream success in the early ’90s? Gifthorse does, and inhabits a cozy corner under that movement’s roof with their latest, Ampersand. Fans of the inviting imprecision of bands like Pavement, Sebadoh, and Superchunk will have fun reminiscing the good old days, when being tagged “indie rock” or “lo-fi” wasn’t a watered down cliche.