By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
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By Jeff Gage
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Rock stars say that critics are frustrated musicians. Critics say that songwriters are frustrated wordsmiths. But if you ask James Diers--freelance writer and singer/guitarist for local indie-rock band Love-cars--to weigh in on the debate, he might not agree with both statements.
"Our record adheres to some fairly conventional 'modern rock' principles, mostly in terms of melody and vocal architecture and subject matter," notes Diers about Love-cars' new self-released record Thank You for Telling Me What I Already Know. "But [it] also indulges in some more angular and/or cryptic lyrics and arrangements."
Such cerebral commentary is to be expected from a music writer such as Diers, especially when communicating through e-mail. But as drummer Dave King says of his bandmates during a late-December interview at Caffetto, "No one [in Love-cars] is striving to be the deepest guy in the room. Everyone's wise to the overly hip nature of a lot of indie-rock music." The fact that King juggles his Happy Apple jazz jams in the same head as Love-cars' more straightforward rhythmic palette speaks to his versatility.
In fact, King met Diers when the latter musician interviewed him for a Twin Cities Reader piece on King's multiple drumming projects. (Taking a break from music writing, Diers now mostly concentrates on film reviews.) Diers joined his high school buddies Alex Gaddis (bass) and Matt Foust (guitar)--both formerly of Ether Bunny--and King to form Love-cars. The unlikely concoction of a critic, a jazz drummer, and two pop stars (Foust also served as a bassist for 12Rods) coalesced into a poppy hybrid of Lifter Puller and American Music Club.
As Diers puts it, "We gravitate towards music that isn't so self-conscious as to be esoteric." Indeed, one could make a strong case that Love-cars' music strays toward the subconscious--especially given the record's musings on the purity of sleep and the lessons to be learned from unwaking life. The album's somnambulant soliloquies could verge on gibberish were they not delivered with Diers's earnest vocals. The breathy conviction Diers musters for lines such as "Homecoming kings with scrap-metal wings" and Freudian references like "ego-plated pistol" adds to their potency. The music itself ranges from the throbbing riffs and jarring bridges on the anthemic track "Let's Start a Band" to the strands of fantasy winding through "Glad I Bumped Into You in a Dream."
But just because the band mines their dreams for song ideas doesn't mean they're sleeping all the time: Long hours of conscious effort went into the conception of Thank You.... Foust rented space at Integral Studio with former bandmate Evan Olcott of 12Rods last year, which gave Love-cars ample time to let the record develop. (Their last album, I'm Friends With All Stars, was released in 1999.) King explains, "When you're able to sit and ponder a song, the nuances are going to be more and more apparent. [Thank You...] took a year--on and off--to complete, whereas before our records never took more than two weeks."
Diers is quick to add that their extra time in the studio wasn't an excuse to overproduce. "It's not like we went on a jag to fill up every single inch of sonic space," he notes. "Some bands feel they have to go so far away from the tried-and-true themes of pop music to make themselves different, whereas we tweak and make subtle changes to those themes."
Could it be that musicians are actually frustrated editors?