CMJ 1996

(IDAHO   Three Sheets To The Wind   Caroline)

The past few years have seen a general lightening in Idaho’s musical tone and lyrical sentiment, but Three Sheets To The Wind is still written in the most minor of keys; the dominant feel is still one of introspection and exhaustion. The principal change is that Idaho is back to being a full-sized band (the previous album, 1994’s This Way Out, had seen the band dwindle down to just singer Jeff Martin). Martin’s new players seem to give him a palpable jolt of energy; up tempo tracks like “Catapult” and “Pomegranate Bleeding” are probably the closest Idaho has ever come to rocking out. Martin, however, remains at the spotlight. Both his ragged, whispery voice and his feedback-soaked, equally hurt-sounding guitar lines (both of which owe a stylistic debt to Neil Young) are attention-grabbing, even on songs where the setting is spare and the rhythm section slows down to a melancholy shuffle. Idaho still seems to be experimenting with ways of striking a balance between the poles of obsessive gloom and of melody and dynamism (the band seems to be evolving towards longer songs that build to crescendos, like the quietly awe-inspiring “No One’s Watching,” instead of short and monotonous slabs), but this young band is already bridging that gap as well as anyone.

David Jarman

DATALOG: Released Feb. 20.

FILE UNDER: Downbeat, downcast guitar pop.

R.I.Y.L.: Codeine, Yo La Tengo’s slow songs, Neil Young.