Wampus Multimedia, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Roller is: big bold sparkly crunchy feed-your-head modern rock. Roller isn't: easily reviewed. Bear with me, now...

Tvfordogs is the power-trio brainchild of singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Neil Luckett, with whom I first became acquainted via Wampus Multimedia's terrific Warren Zevon tribute album, Hurry Home Early. As for Wampus, it is -- and I mean this in the best possible way -- the Island of Misfit Artists when it comes to the indie label scene. Head Wampus Mark Doyon seems to have a love affair with the true iconoclasts of the scene, and the feeling appears quite mutual.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tvfordogs is yet another example of said, a British power trio who bounce gleefully from style to style, sounding one minute like a punked-up Rush -- "The Universe Is Blue" opens this disc with a virtual Geddy Lee homage -- and the next like slightly less obtuse early R.E.M. ("Natural Science Fiction," "Be Careful"). It's all solid indie guitar rock in character, but there's a steady evolution through this album in terms of sound and approach. As the heavy opening pair give way to "Roller" and "Everlasting Sun," Luckett and company focus increasing attention on melody and vocals rather than crunch, revisiting Nirvana-esque heaviness only briefly ("Monolith") before turning out a startlingly effective pair of ballads in "100x" and "Drive." As if to illustrate Luckett's propensity for throwing rocks at convention, the final third of the disc is highlighted by the thundering, propulsive theological query "Where Is Your God?" and the nightclub jazz-pop outro "Time To Go." No, really!

Complete artistic freedom does not come without hazards; at times Roller simply got too dense for me, with so many ideas and styles and moods competing for space that the music begins to feel like a puzzle you get frustrated trying to solve and have to set aside for awhile. Still, the rewards are there for those who seek them out. It was a single line in "Drive" that convinced me to review this album -- "I'm not even sure if we should be forgiven / So we drive" -- and there's plenty more nuggets of that caliber to be mined here.

In the end, the group that tvfordogs really reminds me of is Semisonic, one of those too-cerebral-for-the-mainstream bands whose octagonal musical persona never would fit into the square hole their major label had in mind. (Dan Wilson, Mark Doyon; Mark, Dan. Don't leave the room until the contracts are signed!) It's a dehumanizing experience you see fewer and fewer bands choosing to go through in the modern age of indie labels and d.i.y. artists. Kudos to Neil Luckett for sticking to his creative guns, and to Mark Doyon for supporting his vision.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wampus Multimedia, and is used for informational purposes only.