OCTOBER 21, 1994
A Trimmed Down Idaho Returns with This Way Out
Idaho - This Way Out (Caroline)
The most apparent difference between Idaho's stellar debut Year After Year, and its sophomore effort, This Way Out is the abscence of John Berry. When only two people make up a band, the departure of one should signify a major change.
Remaining member Jeff Martin handles all the singing, guitar and bass work, enlisting a variety of drummers. The result is a cohesive body of songs that retains the simplicity and rich textures of Idaho's previous work.
The disarming, disheartening gloom that made Year After Year such an affecting outing has given way to a freely moving tempo. The move toward the upbeat, however, is a surface matter only.
Jeff Martin's lyrics lend a more subversively downtrodden mood to the album. His plaintive voice adds another dimension to lines like "Your frail emptiness is all I tear from your skin" on "Weird Wood", and "Pencil keep my spine straight because if I bend my guts will surely spill everywhere" on "Glow" certainly dispels any notions of a prevailing upbeat demeanor.
The sonic layers and swirling soundscapes are slightly reminiscent to the last two American Music Club albums. And, while Martin may not be ready to be put on a plateau with Mark Eitzel, he does successfully merge the vulnerability of Sebadoh's Lou Barlow with the quirky esoterica of Pavement's Steven Malkmus.
This Way Out contains some riveting, pained moments of self-examination and self-rejection veiled in alternately sunny and dark wares.
- BRYAN McNAMARA