New Music Express – December 4, 1993
Bad Boise Inc
JEFF MARTIN takes a video camera with him everywhere. Out of Los Angeles and across the US with the Red House Painters, over to Britain on tour, into the soundcheck at the Islington Powerhaus, across the road to the pub for an On interview. This is IDAHO.
“In ten years, people’ll go, “Remember there was that band Idaho that put out one record?’ And there’ll be a documentary,.* says the singer, not strictly seriously.
The tour bottom of the bill to the frankly ropey Sun Dial and Radial Spangle - is not going brilliantly, thanks to the complete incongruity of all three bands. But Idaho are emerging from the wreckage as - authentically - one of the best new American bands to come visiting in 1993.
There’s a tension, a staggering, slow-burning power to everything they do, that’s even more apparent live than on the recent ‘Year After Year’ album, as Jeff’s gruff, graceful voice is drenched again and again by fiercely controlled feedback.
“I could sing real straightforward punk pop songs if I wanted to.” says Jeff. “I could do that so well, but there are plenty of other people doing that. It’s kinda boring, it’s what Brian Eno called “idiot energy’, it’s too obvious.”
Jeff is 29, fairly calm, carries a video camera and uses the word “inchoate” in interviews. From a middle-class childhood in LA, he learned classical piano and spent two weeks at college majoring in composition before he realised “it had nothing to do with music”, and smarted playing in bands with John.
John, by Jeff’s admission, “was just a little bit more rebellious”. Also 29. he’s nervous, anxious to please and looks - in his woolly hat, little sunglasses and beard - like a fatally psychotic gnome. He grew up in similar circumstances, became a teen-age roadie for LA punk bands, got hooked on heroin and eventually ended up in jail. He’s kind of alright now.
“I gel realty angry at times,” he says mildly. “I’m an angry person. When I get drunk, anything annoys me -I went off on my drummer the other night. I tried to kill him in the van because he ate my hot dog. We played a horrible show, too. If I haven’t eaten, my blood sugar...”
“A lot of it’s chemical,” interrupts Jeff.
“ . .And I’m not on the medication I should be...”
“Yeah,, it’s like, Why can’t you just deal with things and relax?’” Jeff continues. “If you have that ticket that’s gonna get you arrested, why don’t you just pay it?’ But he doesn’t. Some black-out happens. But I’m fidgety too, I have sweaty palms, I’m neurotic. We have pretty much in common, like insecurities and stuttering.”
And a joint obsession with making music that doesn’t give a damn about sweet, shallow niceties, that anatomises sorrow with a harsh but profound elegance. Stupid and doomed as it may sound, Idaho really are on a mission to find the saddest of all keys. Good luck out there.