The Upshot: Timeless-sounding pristine pop and indie rock revived for limited edition vinyl.
BY FRED MILLS
Tony award-winning actor Michael Cerveris (2004’s Assassins, 2016’s Fun Home) initially broke through, public image-wise, starring in Sweeny Todd and Tommy on Broadway and, later, Hedwig and the Angry Inch in London, New York, and Los Angeles. All along, though, he never abandoned his rock ambitions—the latter three plays certainly didn’t do anything to scare him off—and over the years he’s been spotted in British band Hinterlands, American outfit Lame, and Bob Mould’s “Dog and Pony Show” touring band. Most recently, he released solo album Piety and a live record, as Michael Cerveris & Loose Cattle, North of Houston: Live at 54 Below. (The latter is particularly entertaining, loose and twangy, and with a handful of choice covers, among them “Wagon Wheel” and “Pinball Wizard.” Yes, that “Pinball Wizard,” done Americana style.)
2004, however, saw his solo debut, dog eared, which went on to become a critical favorite, notching press kudos everywhere, such as at Magnet magazine, which lauded the “Anglophile balladry and fuzzbox raunch recalling Big Star and Guided By Voices in equal measure…call it sloppy art for sloppy hearts, it’s damned swell.” As produced and mixed by veteran studio whiz Adam Lasus, the album featured the performing talents of Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, Ken Stringfellow, Steve Shelley, Norman Blake and Joe McGinty, Laura Cantrell, Anders Parker and others, so it was also a bit of an indie rock super session.
Despite all that wattage, it’s clearly Cerveris’ unique musical vision, a gorgeous, at times lush, collection of pristine pop and indie rock that hits the sonic sweet spot over and over. From the gently luminous, strings-laden “Disconnect,” which suggests Miracle Legion teaming with a chamber quartet, and the slow-burn anthemism of the Fannies’ “Can’t Feel My Soul,” with its vivid nods to Big Star and R.E.M. (it includes guests Stringfellow, Shelley, McGinty and Corin Tucker); to the strummy, hummable, giddily upbeat title track that’s powered by a memorable melody and is awash in tingly vocal harmonies (listen to it HERE at Blurt), and seven-minute closing song “Golden” which is pitched as a kind of mini-symphony very much in the vein of Brian Wilson; dog eared is indeed a masterpiece, ultimately timeless and fully justifying its reputation as a cult classic. Should Cerveris ever opt to go the perform-a-full-album touring route, there’s no question it could potentially be one of the year’s most talked-about.
For this reissue, archival label Azucar (which most recently resurrected Ken Stringfellow’s 2001 gem Touched) has pulled out all the stops, pressing it up as a 2LP/180-gram vinyl limited edition (of 400) in a gatefold sleeve. There are also bonus mono mixes of “Two Seconds” and “Disconnect,” not to mention a pair of tracks (“Eleven” and “Monkey Tennis”) that you won’t find on Spotify.
From externals to internals, a 5-out-of-5-stars release, and a must-own.
DOWNLOAD: “Can’t Feel My Soul,” “dog-eared,” “Another Time,” “Disconnect”