Silver Scooter

The first paragraph in the bio for Silver Scooter's latest album, this year's Orleans Parish, instructs you to "take your favorite record, set it on fire, and chuck it out the window" because "this is the only record you'll need." Yeah, and while you're at it, get rid of every Built to Spill, Superchunk, and Pavement disc in your collection too, because Orleans Parish -- and its predecessor, 1997's The Other Palm Springs -- cram that trio's entire output into just more than two dozen songs. It wouldn't hurt to get rid of any and all Wedding Present albums as long as you're up -- might as well save yourself some shelf space.

Singer-guitarist Scott Garred is the most actionable of the Austin threesome, sharing Mac McCaughan and Doug Martsch's hands and lungs and Stephen Malkmus' minimalist design, writing songs that make verse-chorus-verse seem more complex than calculus. Of course, bassist John Hunt should also be included as a defendant for swiping Martsch's sensitive lumberjack appearance. (New Musical Express referred to Hunt's hirsute presence as looking "like he eats elks.") And drummer Tom Hudson, well, he's just guilty by association. (Recently hired keyboardist-guitarist Shawn Camp hasn't been around long enough to suffer for the crimes of his bandmates.)

It's no surprise at all that Hudson and Garred share Built to Spill's Northwest roots -- The Other Palm Springs is named for a billboard outside of Garred's hometown of Clarkston, Washington -- especially if you've heard "Tractor Pull," which I believe is still tied up in litigation by Warner Bros. Records attorneys for bearing a striking similarity to every song on Perfect From Now On. (The duo likely moved to Austin a few years ago so the comparisons wouldn't be quite as obvious. Sorry, fellas.) But there is more to Silver Scooter than just a class-action suit waiting to happen, even if the band's publicity photo could be placed at random on any page of The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock and fit at least one of the groups listed. Hunt is the real savior here, putting a new twist on the proceedings by wielding his Rickenbacker like a young Peter Hook. While Hudson makes the the most of his sparse kick-snare rhythms and Garred's guitar seems to have only three settings -- jingle, jangle, and jagged -- Hunt does more than just hold down the rhythm, providing a jumping-off point for each song, then doing the jumping himself. If nothing else, Silver Scooter proves why a bass player is still important in rock and roll. That in itself is a big enough feat that leniency should be recommended for some of the band's past indiscretions. But not all of them.

 
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