stewart pack is as indie as it gets.
he gets some buddies together, writes a bunch of songs, and then records, mixes, and masters flushed-out full-lengths of buzzy guitar rock in his basement. then he puts the entire albums, including the cover art, online. for free. he makes music, and then he makes the music available. isn't it funny that a concept so simple can still be so remarkable these days?
of course, it wouldn't be half as remarkable if the music weren't any good. but the secret is out: pack makes records on par with any "signed" or "legitimate" act, and better than most. easy example? his latest, that is that
like all of pack's free albums, that is that
is a study in the economy of song. from the breathy vocals and quick, sharp joey santiago-esque leads to... well, hell, to the length of the album (the whole 10 song cycle clocks in at around 32 minutes), that is that
is about restraint. not a hemmed-in, stifling kind of restraint, but rather the kind practiced by the ramones or buddy holly. get in, get out, leave 'em wanting more. indie guitar rock thrives on this kind of immediacy.
and make no mistake, this is quintessential indie guitar rock. it is efficient and muscular, and rarely self-indulgent. opener "about your illness" stomps on the fuzz pedal, and it is seldom clicked back off. "last day of the year" could have been culled from dave grohl's poppier repertoire. the feedback bombast of "pass the light" is nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times in the last 20 years, yet pack and crew (usual suspects include paul turpin, shayne ivy, greg dunn, and phil fuson) sell it beautifully and unapologetically. this is not about pushing the rock envelope, it is about distilling and refining the contents.
while there are no clunkers on that is that
, and each song contains at least one or two really cool passages, it is a little short on hooks. nothing here really gets irrevocably lodged in your head. and that's not necessarily a bad thing; it might even extend the shelf-life, making every listen almost seem like the first or second time. for a record that costs nothing but the time it takes to download, that is that
is a steal. and you won't even have to dodge the riaa shock troops to get it.
(note: mr. pack has informed me that the record is still in the final tweaking stages, so consider the link graciously provided by pack and co-conspirator shayne ivy a sneak peak at a mostly finished product.)
riyl: bob mould, gillard-era guided by voices, mid-fi
MP3s: download the as yet untweaked record here
MP3s: download stewart's past 4 albums and artwork for free here