MARCH 20, 1996


Three Sheets To The Wind

The intoxicating buzz from singer/songwriter Jeff Martin’s guitar may cause some to lump Idaho into the unfortunate category of “dream pop “

The hazy sonic fog and echoey vocals of bands like Mazzy Star or Cocteau Twins has made the term synonymous with precious, adolescent poetry over rudderless mood music. The effect is meant to be hypnotic and succeeds only in that it numbs our senses and dulls our sensibility.

With   their   new   album. Three Sheets To The Wind Idaho has fulfilled the promise of their stunning 1994 LP This Way Out  writing songs of un­common maturity and emo­tional gravity. There are points in each song where Martin runs the risk of fading into dream pop by letting inertia carry them to a dose, but subtle grace notes — a layer of guitar noise or an inventive drum riff, for example — pull us back from complacency and reward repeated listens.

While the sequencing, which confines the edgier songs to the first half and the quieter to the second, makes Three Sheets less wholly satisfying than This Way Out. the songs are just as affecting. The slight distortion of Martin’s four-string guitar unifies the straight-ahead rock songs “Catapult” and “Pomegranate Bleeding with sweeter’ exquisitely controlled ones like “Stare At The Sky” or “Get You Back ‘

The best song on the record, “A Sound Awake,” is carried along by the insistent current of an acoustic guitar with layers of vocals and instrumentation elegantly deepening the sound. The production is clean and precise, almost dangerously so, yet Martin doesn’t fall into the role of cold technician. With clarity and skill, he cuts through the fuzzy postures of “dream pop” and Idaho, for all their affectations, have the passion and immediacy of great rock.

Scott Tobias