JACK DRAG, Soft Songs LP: Aviating (Sugar Free) "Mistaken ride/simplicity" goes one throwaway, context-free couplet on a new Jack Drag LP that's loaded with 'em.


Jack Drag, Glossary.

JACK DRAG, Soft Songs LP: Aviating (Sugar Free) "Mistaken ride/simplicity" goes one throwaway, context-free couplet on a new Jack Drag LP that's loaded with 'em. And why the hell not? After being dumped from A&M in a major-label artist purge, Jack Dragonetti wasted no time jumping back into the recording fray with a one-man sonic pop burst that splits the seam between happy-noise studio chicanery and indie-pop goodness. On Soft Songs, every moment's a delicacy. Playing the part of multi-instrumentalist auteur, Dragonetti juggles mid-fi soundscapes and catchy rock-minded clusters, invoking the industry that gave him the shaft with a wink ("We Could've Been Big," "An Evening at the Boston Music Awards"), while gleefully ignoring the regulations imposed on its artisans by the ruling multinationals. In its conciseness (29:36, for fuck's sake); its unproduced mix of analog electronics, roaring flanged guitar, and tossed-off vocals; and its wholly uncommercial drift from melody to hook and back again; Soft Songs rebels—but without any sneering attacks on the hand that slapped its creator. A career-peak collection that redefines his muse seems to be the best revenge. And on "At the Symphony, I Could Be," one of the LP's finest moments, Dragonetti dots that symbolic "i," deconstructing the Beatles' own great sonic leap forward "Tomorrow Never Knows" by examining all the places he can now go, while a remodeled version of Ringo's retard-funky beat pummels onward and the guitars crash loudly. Far from a calculated masterstroke, it is one man's emancipation proclamation—the kind Mark Linkous would probably give up his left leg to write.—Peter Orlov

GLOSSARY, This Is All We've Learned About Living (Champ/Parasol) Although the title suggests mild self-deprecation, if this set of guitar-fuzzed, twangy indie rock from the Tennessee quintet known as Glossary truly represents what the band has learned about living, then I say they've had some pretty decent schoolin'. Bent guitar note solos mix with whirling harmonica noise and bright lap steel singing, complementing the co-ed vocals perfectly on songs like "Just be a Rampart." The music conjures up an auditory idea about the song's title; the refrain urges us along and a protective, sheltering wall of sound magically emerges. Played after Neil Young, Glossary's Mercury Rev-like flair comes tripping through, but when played after Wheat, they sound closer to the rebellion rock of bands such as Archers of Loaf and Ass Ponys. In fact, the only lesson that Glossary skimped on is the one about presenting the vocals nice and high in the mix. Perhaps they made a stylistic choice: The charging guitar work and perfectly strident and varied musical collaboration certainly merits a bright spotlight. All the same, I would love to report that every one of the songs on the album features sharp and evocative lyrics; unfortunately, I don't hear evidence of that on each track. Tuning into the lines that make it through, lines like: "Feeling transcendental/you won the medal/for coming in last every time," I have faith that all the songs are equally as salient. I just wish I had more proof.—Laura Learmonth

Listen to Glossary's "Just be a Rampart" from the album This Is All We've Learned About Living

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