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Drive Thru The Center by AM

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Reviewed on 1st November 2002.


Drive Thru The Center


AM are a three piece rock band from Brooklyn. They settle the question of whether all Americans are cool once and for all. They're not.

But on the other hand, most of us aren't cool either. And we still make nifty records sometimes. 10 songs in 27 minutes is definitely a good thing, and they do write some agile energetic stuff that's worth hearing. "One Clear Note" (I think the title is a reference to Beefheart and the Cooder/Rollo heritage) is an outstanding song with very neat guitar invention and would be well worth recording properly. Listening to it now on my very muscular Rogers monitor speakers with a Quad amp and pre-amp, I'm thinking "oh god, the system's broken after all those years".

But it hasn't. The AM CD just makes it sound like the bass shat itself, machine heads and all, into the speaker cones.

The production is astonishingly bad. I can't start to imagine how they recorded it. The bass is ridiculously high in the mix, to the point that the sometimes quite good guitar lines are hard to hear and bass drum is completely lost. When the two voices work together they fit well. Mostly the vocal lines are weak screamy stuff from the lead singer (who I suspect is also the megalomaniac bass player). One or two songs seem to have played at the far end of a long corridor, with a pair of microphones set up to capture the ambience in a locked room at the other end.

On the positive side, there's plenty of 1980's wayward garage energy (A la Wilko Johnson/ Doctor Feelgood) and some sophomore get-pissed college pop enthusiasm, with lyrics that take the trouble to address subjects and chose words carefully. The CD could also be used as the before half of a before and after presentation on the role of the record producer.

There probably is a manipulative manager somewhere who could make this lot into something really big. She might start by deleting the mpeg video of their mumblingly incoherent "biog" on the Web site.



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