Birtha Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Mike Shellito is an interesting character - at least, that's the impression I get after multiple listens to Ingredients, the independent release from Shellito. Basically a two-man band - Shellito and Jeff Tanner, plus a gaggle of guests - what you hear in these 12 songs is an interesting mixture which is part Matthew Sweet, part Brian Wilson, and part Captain Beefheart (in a pop-culture way). Shellito's music doesn't give a damn about following formulas or even achieving commercial success; these are songs which demand to be taken on their own merits.

To be honest, that's not the easiest thing to do - it certainly won't happen on the first listen. But if you stick with it throughout the 38 minutes this disc plays, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ingredients will eventually prove to be well worth the effort. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Shellito's songwriting style is, to put it mildly, unnerving at first. With sparse rhythm, acoustic guitars and layered vocals repeating one verse and a sing-song laugh, "Orange Or Green" is beautiful enough to keep your interest, but genre-bending enough to leave you scratching your head wondering what's going to come next.

The fact is, Ingredients doesn't follow any set rules or expectations. It's almost as if the music is the muse, taking Shellito, Tanner and the various guests on a trip wihout a roadmap. At times, this can be especially rewarding; songs like "Jim" and "Tired" are absolutely charming in their layered simplicity, and stand out as being excellent efforts. Others, like "Smart People," "Human" and "Happy," have their moments, but eventually fall short of the bullseye (even though they register solid hits on the musical target).

Yet there are times when I wish I understood what kind of a point Shellito was trying to make. Songs like "Lima" seem to throw together an inordinate amount of non sequiturs so that they become a structured song. Another example: "Virgo Torpedo," which features over half the song using words that end with the "o" sound. Clever, yes. Comprehensible, no.

And for all of the positives that Ingredients has in the big picture, this disc just isn't the easiest for a listener to get comfortable with. Maybe it's the random generation of ideas that became song lyrics that threw me the first six or seven listens; maybe it was trying to get past the child-like innocence of certain parts of this disc to find a deeper meaning. Maybe it just takes time to get used to Shellito's style of music.

Whatever the case, Ingredients might not be the easiest recipe to follow, and the end result might be an acquired taste, but it turns out to be one that's worth acquiring.

Rating: B-

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen 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 Birtha Records, and is used for informational purposes only.