Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fast Piece of Furniture - Adventures in Contentment

Adventures in Contentment was released this past May on Dischord and Adult Swim, the labels co-founded and founded, respectively, by Minor Threat's Jeff Nelson, who plays drums here. But this is not material consistent with Minor Threat's early hardcore scene, nor with Dischord's overall rough and raw output. A four-piece based in Ohio and lead by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Tony Lowe, Fast Piece of Furniture seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it deal, and unless you collect bargain pop records from the 1970s, it's bound to remain at a distance from the bulk of your music collection.

Tony Lowe's got the creak of a 55-year old, and when joining the opening riff and lazy mood of introductory track “Berlin” sends the listener straight into a two-star movie from 1978 – specifically, the opening scene, where title credits roll perpendicular to a freeway full of station wagons. The tone is set here for an album that should be embedded in vinyl, listened to on Sunday mornings between doses of Carole King and Nick Lowe; for the most part, this remains the case with the rest of Adventures in Contentment, ideal for a car ride in one of those station wagons. There's actually a photograph of a green station wagon within the album's liner notes, buried between pictures of the band recording at what appears to be Jeff Nelson's beautiful Victorian in Toledo.

There are pieces here and there that bring the record up to date in an un-hip way, intentional but not the least bit ironic, as though it were the fresh comeback album of a punk or rock star from thirty years ago who couldn't recapture the urgency of his oldest work. Such bits being Erika Kuester's spacey keyboard steps on “Can I Believe in You?” or Nelson's post-punk drumming, which takes over the choruses of “Ready When You Are” where the misplaced electric guitar strums of its verses leave off. This doesn't sound like much of a sell on the whole, does it? In text, and maybe even on first listen, Adventures in Contentment is a bizarre find that doesn't really have a current place – anywhere.

But it does have its immediate upsides; “The Wolves” and “Pictures of You and Me” provide highlights that pull Fast Piece of Furniture out of a time warp and into a definite present, not to mention Lowe's oaky wail into a soft, vibrating sing-song voice that nicely ties together pairings of acoustic strums and softly beaten snares. And ballad “Wears Me Down” twinkles thanks to the presence of glockenspiel and toy keyboard, acting as the subtle intermission to an album that most would consider an awkward blend of pop. Production on the album is quite nice and finds no instrument or voice fighting for more power than owed, and though Adventures in Contentment on the whole would seem the odd album out right now, it becomes an addictive record once given the chance to sink in after a few listens.

Fast Piece of Furniture – Miles From Nowhere
Fast Piece of Furniture – Picture of You and Me
Fast Piece of Furniture – The Wolves

Purchase Adventures in Contentment.

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