Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Under the Western Freeway [V2, 1998] A-
  • Signal to Snow Ratio [V2, 1999] **
  • The Sophtware Slump [V2, 2000] A-
  • Sumday [V2, 2003] *
  • Just Like the Fambly Cat [V2, 2006] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Under the Western Freeway [V2, 1998]
An indelibly local unit from the sun-baked I-5 nowhere of Modesto, California, they orchestrate lo-fi so cunningly that the tunes arising from the murk seem angelic in their grace and uplift. The title instrumental, a descending scale voiced by several flutes or recorders and a roomful of busted Casios, sets the standard. But that's not to say skateboard pro turned glorified garbageman Jason Lytle throws away the words, starting with a lead track that dissents from meritocracy with a quiet defeatism too subtle and eloquent for any simple slacker. No matter how wearisome Lytle finds all the Neil Young, Howe Gelb, and Pavement comparisons, they triangulate him accurately and honorably. A-

Signal to Snow Ratio [V2, 1999]
Accomplished sound with not much new to say meets 12 minutes to say it in ("MGM Grand," "Hand Crank Transmitter"). **

The Sophtware Slump [V2, 2000]
One thing I like about Jason Lytle is that I usually know what he's talking about. If he calls one "Broken Household Appliance National Forest," that's what it's about, to go with the booklet pix of dead keyboards in the gravelly dirt. Computer keyboards, that is--final image is a guy in a cowboy hat carrying a Casio into the sunset, and if you don't take the cowboy part literally (think last frontier, not Gunsmoke) that's pretty much what the music is like. It's the end of the day, you're sitting in your house in the exurbs feeling kind of sad for reasons you don't fully understand, although you do wish your humanoid pal Jed was still around. So you make up tunes that feel as blurry as you do. So you aim toward the sky and rise high today, fly away, far away from pain. A-

Sumday [V2, 2003]
Here's the clue you're not facin', the robot is Jason ("The Group Who Couldn't Say," "Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake"). *

Just Like the Fambly Cat [V2, 2006]
Like said cat, Jason Lytle went out in search of adventure and lost the way home. Too young to obsess so much on the past and smart enough to know it, he just has to stop. So this will be his last album of songs labored over by an Ikea lamp, or so he believes. In a time when so many bands don't know why they exist but keep on vanning anyway, his honest tale is touching and instructive. "Where I'm Anymore," a disoriented local-color song about a central California of garage-sale exercise equipment and ice cream trucks that play "Don't Believe the Hype," is enough to make me glad he'll someday change his mind. A-