MAY 1, 1996


Three Sheets to the Wind


A state-based band name is usually a tip-off that the group in question is bland, soulless, and dull. There’s Kansas (arena-rock hacks), Oregon (jazz-dweeb hacks), Alabama (country hacks), and Texas (alterna-hacks). The poor folks who live in those states must cringe at the very mention of such bands. The folks in Idaho, however, can hold their heads high, secure in the, knowledge that the group traipsing around the country under their moniker is doing them proud.

On its third release, Three Sheets to the Wind, Idaho doesn’t sound like a typical; rock quartet. The usual twin guitars, bass, and drums are in place, but they’re used more for mood than visceral impact. If vocalist/guitarist Jeff Martin worships at the altar of lan Curtis and Nick Drake—as I suspect he might—it also sounds as if he’s been listening to American Music Club and Dinosaur Jr. Idaho opts for whispering over screaming and weeping over wailing, but with a wider spectrum of feeling and texture than most slow-core bands (Low, Red House Painters, Acetone, etc.).

Three Sheets drones and soars, its dense melancholia offset by ample grace. Minor chords buzz alongside shimmering acoustic guitars, while Martin’s scratchy voice and an occasional piano cut a deep, blue groove through “If You Dare,” “Shame,” and “Alive Again.” Such instrumentation creates a basket of sound that catches Martin’s impressionistic poetry without letting his unique phrasing slip away unnoticed. On “Catapult” and “Pomegranate Bleeding,” a pair of straight-ahead rockers, the band simply turns up the volume, losing none of its effectiveness in the process. As a result, Three Sheets to the Wind ebbs and flows like a muddy river a mile wide and just as deep. (Caroline, 114 West 26th St., New York, NY 10001)

 (John Lewis) •

Idaho will open for Lotion at the 8X10 May 5.