Invoking the names of the Gods is a good way to get the attention of the music buying public, but it's also a good way to look like a bunch of idiots if you can't back it up. On Innaway's self-titled debut on Some Records, the band (or at least their PR people) does just that, namedropping the mighty Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Tortoise. (Ok, two Gods and one sort of lesser regional deity) In a way Innaway errs in doing this, simply because they're a unique enough band not to warrant too many comparisons. The mix of wide open structure and breathing, fluid, musicianship alone set the disc apart from most other rock bands. Although comparisons to the rock coming out of Britain now, Radiohead and their ilk, are certainly appropriate, Innaway lays firmly entrenched in the underground. But, to be fair, they brought up those lofty comparisons, not me, so let's examine them a little more closely.
"A new reading of Pink Floyd's psychedelia" the tag line reads. The quirkiness and layered-on effects of Floyd are certainly there, and songs like "Tiny Brains" evoke a Syd Barrett-like consciousness, but Innaway isn't nearly as smart or funny. Porcupine Tree is a much better example of a band plugged into the mindset and talent of Pink Floyd, knowing when tongue-in-cheek works better than the "we're so serious" approach.
Additionally, Innaway's commitment to ambient sounds and electronic elements ruins any chance of hanging with the heavyweight champion of psychedelic rock, who despite their spacey reputation, always maintained a very organic sound and feel. Sometimes, as on "Stolen Days" the whole thing sort of works, but when the band ventures out too far, as on "Follow Moon" the result is a messy bunch of elements that never really come together as a song. The vocals in that song are particularly off-putting and the electronic filter they're being pushed through is dreadful and grating.
Probably the only fair comparison is that to, "Tortoise's spatiality". The influential indie rock innovators' presence is felt throughout, no doubt largely in part to Innaway's producer, John McEntire's affiliation with that band. The ambient excursions, bordering on jazz meanderings, the free form song structures and the general sprawling nature of Tortoise's albums are all here. Late in the album, on "Post FM" and "Golden" these leanings are taken to their furthest extremes. This is Electronica territory, and I found myself moving quickly past these tracks with the skip button while reaching for a magazine to occupy my mind and some BC powder to sooth it. The last couple of songs, starting with "Stolen Days" get things back on track by ratcheting up the volume and the intensity, while maintaining the easy going vibe and room to lounge to which the album builds.
On the other hand, the biggest stretch, by far, is the comparison to "Led Zeppelin's hippie boogie." Huh? Comparisons to Led Zepplin are dangerous ground anyway, sort of like comparing one's self to Jesus (right John Lennon?), but to further wedge the old size ten
into his mouth, the purveyor of PR uses the basically insulting term, "hippie boogie". After the first few listens, very little if anything even resembling the hard rock supernova that is Zeppelin rears its ugly head. After a while though, I found some instances beginning to poke out. Besides the superficial harmonica intro to "Threat Hawk" there is sort of a low blues growl to that opening track. The fact that it sits buried under a lot of ethereal sounding ooing and aahing casts it a bit like buried treasure, but treasure nevertheless. "Stolen Days", by far the best track on the disc, sounds a bit like, "When the Levee Breaks", albeit in an utterly deconstructed form. I still didn't hear any boogie, anywhere on this album, hippie or otherwise.
Innaway is a potentially interesting band. Some of the pieces are in place for a very good album to develop, but it feels like they're holding back. The tone of the album is so constrained, especially after the great opener, "Threat Hawk". It seems to find its legs again by the last couple of tracks, but the middle is like a very long commercial
break that never really ends. Modern psychedelia is what it is, however, and it can be better. See the German band, The Colour Haze, as an example. Innaway is not without its impressive minor league stats, but they're not quite ready for the big leagues and all comparisons that would suggest otherwise are just a little premature. A couple more
years underground cultivating a following will get them ready for the call up in no time.
CD Info and Links
2. Strings Of North Egg, The
3. Tiny Brains
6. Follow Moon
7. Post FM
9. Stolen Days
10. George Walker On Water
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