March 1996


Three Sheets To The Wind

There’s a reason why LA has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Anyone who failed physics knows that because of the refraction of dust particles and pollution in the air, the sun in southern California can take on extraordinary hues on its way down. Idaho’s Jeff Martin no doubt revels in this irony as weather phenomena loom large in this Angeleno’s lyrical world view. On Three Sheets To The Wind, Idaho manage to partially shake the “sadcore” tag that has followed them around on records past with songs like “Catapult” and the shoegazing of “Pomegranate Bleeding.” The first side of the record is oddly upbeat with the surprising “If You Dare” (no, not quite the Replacements’ “I Will Dare” but a leadoff track nonetheless) starting things with a sharp, lazy chord progression thrown over a shuffling hip-hop beat. The remainder of the first side follows the guitar-driven path in an attempt to convey what Martin’s lyrics hint at endlessly-the struggle and shame of using worldly addictions to escape an otherwise spiritually devoid life. Witness a line from “Catapult”: “Summer’s getting old and I’m still out of it“.

It is not until the second side, however, that Idaho really mellow out and show their “not-so-secret affinity for the most melancholy of seasons-winter. On “Alive Again,” the studio piano’s sustain pedal gets a serious work out as Martin longingly drawls lines like “Late December is what I’m feeling,” or “ a drape of crystal snow.” As Three Sheets To The Wind closes in this vein, one is left with a soul-searching, contemplative moodiness that is reminiscent of Idaho’s earlier work.

At their best, Idaho sound like a smart mix of fellow LA haze rockers Acetone and Dinosaur Jr. However, a song like “A Sound Awake” forces you to realize that Idaho can sound like the mediocre bitter sweetness of mid-‘80s U2 or the Church. But Martin’s delicate songwriting coupled with hauntingly sincere lyrics makes for some of the best mood music this side of Nick Drake. Like watching a blazing sunset, listening to Three Sheets To The Wind is a life-affirming exercise in realizing the inevitable-and reveling in its beauty. (Caroline)

Charlie Amter