VILLANOVAN (VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY)
OCTOBER 8, 1993
Idaho hypnotizes with mellow sound
By REGGIE BEEHNER
Idaho’s new release, Year After Year, is a fresh new musical experience thrown out like a slow whirlwind of sound and darkness. The Los Angeles duo of ex-con man, punk veteran John Berry and classically trained pianist Jeff Martin combine for a unique mellow selection of 12 such powerful, nonprescription depressants they could make Pat Sajak forget to show his pearly whites.
That is not to say that this music is a heap or trash — quite the contrary. Idaho refutes the idea that music has to be the standard jump-around-in-your-best-I’m-here-to-party-attitude music that seems to dominate the MTV airwaves. Instead the band combines a generation of influences for a combined sound ranging from Pavement to Codeine. All of this creates an effect that is hypnotizingly beautiful, yet draggingly gloomy.
The band members both have entirely different upbringings and musical preferences which make for an interesting blend of haunting chords and forceful power-chorded distortion. Berry plays a four-string guitar with all the knowledge of his prior passion, classical piano. His subdued tenor voice guides the wandering musical adventure as well.
Martin, on the other hand, provides the incandescent darkness, propelling the dazed feedback to a place of melodic unity. “God’s Green Earth” is a warming bless of inherent sadness. “Skyscrape,” the best song on the album, is a wonderful chord progression encumbered by the weight of melancholy. “Here to Go” seems destined to be placed in some movie scene where the protagonist stumbles helplessly through the turbid streets of confusion with the rain pouring down unsympathetically.
Idaho ranks as one of the most unique bands heard in a long time, and that in itself is revitalizing. They may be the proud innovators of a new alternative blues fad. As Berry has stated in a press release, “Yeah, it [their music] is like listening to the blues. You know ‘Blue Valentine’ by Tom Waits? When I’m feeling low, a song like that is something to grab on to.” Grabbing on to something might be the only hope left for listeners dragged deep into the intriguing depths of Idaho.