If there’s a more perfect essence of no-wave geek-rock cool than “The Lives Of Charles Douglas” by the Californian outpatient of the same name then I’ve yet to hear it. It’s like a mythical secret treasure in audio form that has been lost for over a decade & now is finally ready to reveal itself to anyone that should still be looking for it.
From the surf-pop opener “Summertime” (complete with probably the best three second demented slide guitar solo you’ll ever hear in your life) it’s an infectious listen that evokes ideas of late 90’s Amerindie movies featuring art kids over articulating about who’d win in a fight between the Marvel & DC comic characters. Pushing on immediately with “Earlybird School” the best beach party for losers ever continues with a nod to the pop sensibilities that made early Weezer such a big deal.
There’s an endearing quality to the album which makes you go back for repeat listens & in turn you’re rewarded for your efforts as the laid back master of ceremonies leads you through besotted odes to his stereo & the joys of getting baked, like a cheeky version of Lou Reed giggling with E from the Eels if you will. For the most part it’s a hand clapping alt-rock party of an album but it’s the dreamy “Ganapathee” that provides the biggest highlight for me. Showing a refined ear for melody & exquisite arrangement, the track twinkles over a controlling bass line embellished with tasteful boy / girl vocals. Thinking that the following “Part Time Lover” was going to be a brash butchering of Stevie Wonder I was relieved when the Doors styled organs & horns kicked in to more familiar slow motion hip shaking territory.
For all it’s quirky jaunts through life’s trials, tribulations & intoxicated evenings, the Charles Douglas sound isn’t going to appeal to everyone though. “A Boy Like Me” treads the musicianship line between being ‘…is this serious?’ & the kind of anti-song genius that Stephen Malkmus would be proud of. No doubt those that ‘get it’ will revel in the two fingered salute it presents & those that don’t, well I’m sure they won’t lose any sleep over it either. Just as well really ‘cos the substance fuelled revelers can get straight back to their feet for the two minute blast of “Baby Come On.” It’s surf punk-pop at it’s salty aired finest, rigid high hats fail to keep time as a scratchy guitar zips along over a Pixies-esque back drop, great stuff & no wonder that Joey Santiago has lent his fretboard sonics to other Charles Douglas projects.
“The Lives…” clearly wears it’s influence on it’s sleeve, if Pavement were being conducted by Kim Deal then you’d imagine they’d turn in a similar piece of work but for a chap that once got fired from Burger King (only to exact his ironic revenge by stealing a box of their paper crowns to wear onstage) he’s managed pull together a damn fine collection of songs & given them a Beck inspired touch of east-coast hipster cool by adding sketchy beats & rhythms. As “The Day You Went Away” signifies the close with the kind of lyric gentle folk on both sides of the Atlantic can relate to, you’re almost glad not everyone will be on board with it because you’ve discovered a secret soundtrack to play out behind the most ‘happening’ bits of your own life & you don’t care if any one else gets to hear it with you.
“I could give you a line but I know you’ve got style so I will hold off…”