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Rotary Downs - Long After the Thrill

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Artist: Rotary Downs

Album: Long After the Thrill

Label: Static on Vinyl

Review date: Apr. 22, 2003

Pounding the Pavement

It’s funny how almost no one ripped off Pavement while they existed. Plenty of lo-fi bands, encompassing a wide spectrum of talent, came and went between Slay Tracks and Terror Twilight, but few of them had the guts to directly copy the pride of Stockton, Calif. Low production values aren't enough; true Pavement disciples have to appreciate the humor and magnitude of influences that made them interesting. As beloved as Pavement were for over a decade, there haven't been a lot who fit that description. Perhaps only now, with the band broken up and none of its members pursuing projects worth mentioning, is it possible for newer groups to interpret their catalogue.

From New Orleans, armed beyond any doubt with one or more copies of Wowee Zowee and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, come the Rotary Downs, perhaps the first band prepared to decide how the ’00s will remember the legacy of Pavement, who in their time decided the Fall’s affect on the ’90s.

Long After The Thrill, Rotary Downs’ first recording, mixes dusty, psychedelic country with off-key, free-association singing and the glory of untrained guitars. Dreamy moments materialize when the notes shimmer like Santo and Johnny, and fragile chords change at times when the songs seems destined to fall apart. The lyrics are fitful and literary, forestalling any attempt at convincing lexical analysis. The slide guitar belongs, but sounds a little drunken. Ideas, all of which were tossed around playfully towards the end of the under-appreciated Wowee Zowee, but here they reach a more advanced level of coherence.

Most of the songs are sparse, medium-tempo country tunes, including "Reunite Over Ice (70's Movie)", "C'mon, take a hit", and "Runaway Cow", though the band isn't at all above rocking out, as evidenced by songs like "Rev. Percy," where the singer's voice modulates sharply over classic-rock derivations. Long After The Thrill is an experiment primarily with these two ideas; that is, a less-polished Flying Burrito Brothers take on country and the propulsive 4-track rock song. The few that diverge are pleasant but unexceptional, including the confusing violin showcase "Westerly" and the closer, "Cotton Fields", an uncharacteristically clean and sappy swing piece.

For the most part, the Rotary Downs have started well by focusing so narrowly. Contrary to the sneers of critics eager to call bands out on their role models, earnest emulation is not a bad way to make music. The Rotary Downs, moreover, are emulating a very dense and misunderstood segment of a great band's catalogue, and doing so intelligently. It's an auspicious start for a group with a nice choice of influence.

By Ben Tausig

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