Motel Swim

by Doleful Lions

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about

Crisply produced by Mitch Easter, the Doleful Lions' buoyant debut album resurrects the jangle pop sound of an era gone by; haunted by the ghosts of Let's Active, the dB's, and Miracle Legion, Motel Swim nicely fills the void created by their absence, deftly approximating the ringing guitars, clever melodies, and ingratiating hooks which made those bands so memorable. The opening "The Sound of Cologne" -- a loving celebration of the Krautrock movement which name-checks everyone from Can to Cluster (and in its most winning couplet compares Neu! to the Beach Boys) -- is an instant classic, and although the remainder of the album doesn't reach quite the same peaks, tracks like "One Revolution (Around the World)," "Gulliver Diver," and the evocative title cut all soar as well. A fine debut. - Jason Ankeny All Music Guide

The mail-order arm of Parasol Distribution has been invaluable to me, both for records and leads, so I've taken, every time I place an order with them, to throwing in one or two extra records from one of their own labels, Parasol, Mud or Hidden Agenda, as thanks. I passed over Motel Swim a couple times, as the production involvement of Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey seemed promising, but Parasol's description began with a Brian Wilson comparison, and mentioned that the album itself begins with an elegy to krautrock, and it's been my experience that neither of those things bode well for my tastes. Some tangent I've forgotten looped back around to the Doleful Lions from another direction, though, and I broke down. Indeed, the album does open with an answering-machine message from a record store, letting leader Jonathan Scott know that the copy of Can's Future Days he ordered has arrived, but the song on this subject, "The Sound of Cologne", despite amounting, lyrically, to "German Noise Bands Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid to Know About", sounds more like a cross between McRackins and the Connells, and Scott's cheerfully nasal voice eliminates any Brian Wilson aura, at least for me. "When Neu make a noise / They sound just like the Beach Boys", he insists, but he doesn't try to demonstrate the equivalence, aware, I assume, that what he means is that they affect him the same way, not that they literally sound alike. Stamey and Easter's presences turn out to be much more relevant, as most of the time the Doleful Lions strike me as descendants of Let's Active and the dB's via Velvet Crush and the Primitons, or perhaps like REM traced backwards past Chronic Town into an imaginary Undertones pre-history. The slow songs let in traces of mournful country twang, "Gulliver Diver" sounds like a cross between Counting Crows and Guided by Voices, there are a couple excursions into late-Beatles psychedelia, and at least one song could easily be an old Scruffy the Cat number, but if My Favorite are an Anglophilic updating of British New Wave, the Doleful Lions might be the corresponding heir of southern American guitar-pop, Guadalcanal Diary and the Swimming Pool Qs translated through Tullycraft and the Posies.-The War Against Silence

The Doleful Lions feature lots of great jangly guitar, sharp songs and a drummer who remembers what it's like to power the song. Despite odd song titles like "Advanced Japanese Candlestick Man," there is classic pop instinct at work here. "Gulliver Diver" is from the "Another Girl Another Planet" school, while "Hang Around In Your Head" is reminiscent of many 60s pop hits. The killer track is "All Winter Long," which starts out like Buddy Holly fronting Beat Rodeo and morphs into a Phil Spector production of Jan And Dean (including sleigh bell percussion!). The closer, "Down Tiger Down Tiger," is a sweet Badfinger-esque ballad. Vocalist Jonathan Scott sounds like Mitch Easter (Easter co-priduces with Chris Stamey, so go figure!) with a little more wallop behind him, or perhaps Sparks' Russel Mael in a more conventional pop band. While "Motel Swim" is not a seamless record, there's five songs here I wouldn't want to be without. One of 1998's nicest surprises.-Bill Holmes Bucketful Of Brains

Remember in the mid-80s when every record you bought was great? When you could trust a record store clerk to steer you in the right direction, or better yet, trust the label imprint on the back as a sign of quality? Motel Swim is the modern equivalent of those records. This is a perfect updating of the Midwestern pop made by the likes of the Johnsons, Turning Curious and even Doleful Lions labelmates Weird Summer. From the overdriven pop like "Sound of Cologne" (about Can, no less!) and "Hang Around in Your Head" to quiet ballads (especially the title track) this album is as catchy as anything released this year. And much like on those pop sides of old, Mitch Easter is behind the boards, nicely capturing both the guitar crunch of these songs without losing the acoustic guitar touches found underneath. I can't recommend this album enough. It's a stunner, top to bottom.- Sticks And Stones

credits

released 12 May 1998

Jonathan Scott: vocals, guitars, harmonium
Mike Nicholson: bass guitar
Tony Stiglitz: drums, vocals
Joe Caparo: guitars, vocals

with Jeff Hart: keyboards, vocals

Recorded by Mitch Easter at the Fidelitorium

Additional mixing and recording by Chris Stamey at Modern Recording

Additional recording by Ronald Tucker at Flying Hippo
Kurt Mueller at Studioworks

Mastered by Brent Lambert at the Kitchen

Doleful Lions official You Tube channel.
www.youtube.com/user/starkweather444

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