Archive for February, 2002

February 23, 2002

Green Man Review

Come Back Down – Aaron Scholz

This is Scholz’s 2002 hi-fi, full-band follow-up to his 2000 low-fi, played-all-the-instruments-himself debut, Perfect Child, which was hailed as one of the great independent releases of that year.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter-musician delivers an excellent set of life-observing Everyman country-folk-pop compositions, a la classic, middle-period Ray Davies. In fact, on the back of the CD booklet, he urges anyone who enjoys the record to “go to your local indie music store and ask for The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.”

A picture inside the booklet gives a good idea of where he’s coming from musically: a small motel called Hell’s 1/2 Acre, in the middle of flatland nowhere, with the huge plastic cube containing the “1/2” apparently long since fallen from its lofty perch while gray skies behind the remainder of the sign threaten to pour down rain.

This time out, in addition to himself on guitars and harmonica, there are five backup players providing guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and lap steel, creating an uncluttered, straightforward alt-country sound.

What makes the record a real winner is that this “pure” instrumentation is wedded to fine pop hooks and the best damn lyrics this side of the turn of the century. In other words, there’s something here to please just about everyone.

Songs like “Old Road,” “Bartime Love,” “Learn to Crawl” and “Party Time” address issues of going back, quick romance, responsibility and maturity, respectively. “Secret Identity” is about running away for a hopefully better life and coming full circle, back to one’s hometown. “Starlite” eulogizes a drive-in theater gone out of business. “Caught Up” tells a partner to stop living in the past and help her man make sense of it all.

For only having two albums under his belt, and self-produced at that, Scholz displays an uncanny command of his craft.

-Peter Hund


February 20, 2002

Water With Lemon Review

Come Back Down – Aaron Scholz

Let me present a couple biases upfront: Aaron is a friend, and I think he is a very talented songwriter. While there?s no reason to prove the former, for the latter I present to you Come Back Down.

Right at the opening song ?Old Road?, you will think, ?This guy?s gotta be huge.? In a different world, maybe. But in our world this Madison, WI resident has self-released this, his second album. After doing nearly everything on his 1999 debut album Perfect Child, he enlists a dang good band here and further refines his fusion of Kinks-like lyrics (at once both specific and obtuse) and alt-somewhat-country chops (kind of in the vein of late-era Replacements albums but not really). Scholz gives a tour of the roads and bars and emotions of middle American towns, where now is better than then but we can?t stop thinking about some things about then every now and then.

You?ll wonder where the heck this guy came from and how you hadn?t heard of him before, and at least part of the credit for this wonder has to go to Wendy Schneider, whose clean and perfect production gives Come Back Down a world-class feel. Not one note or bang is too loud or too soft. Scholz?s songs comfortably breathe in an organic environment that befits them. Listen to ?Too High? (which you could easily fool someone into thinking is a lost Big Star track, save for the more Jay Farrar-esque singing style), and just try to keep your spine from being un-chilled.

With pedal steel and lap steel utilized in just the right amounts, alt-country-ers will leave CBD satisfied. Fans of singer-songwriter types have plenty to choose from, too, and ?Party Time? will likely get the repeat treatment on their CD players. There?s wry fun sprinkled throughout, too, such as on ?Bartime Love? and ?Secret Identity?. Altogether, there?s so much to like here and very little (anything?) to not.

You?ve had the better part of this year to find this album. If you haven?t yet, then you need my help, so listen: go get it now.

—Paul O?Mara