Once the rhythm section in Los Angeles garage-rockers Spinout, guitarist Mark Lightcap, drummer Steve Hadley and bassist Richie Lee became Acetone in the early ’90s to make nearly rhythmless music more suited for the bedroom than the garage. The debut EP immediately establishes the trio’s sound, a downbeat drone in the style of Luna or Low. But Acetone has yet to completely settle its identity, which allows for stretched-out explorations of everything from punk to country. Burning off its aggression in the first fifteen seconds of “I’m Gone” with a burst of three-chord rock, Acetone slowly strips the sound of melody and energy; by the fourth and last song, the eight-minute “Cindy,” the band is making more mood than music.
The full-length Cindy doesn’t include that song; the ten tracks vary in style and substance, including the feedback-drenched pop of “Come On,” the ’80s schlock rock of “Endless Summer” and a three-and-a-half-minute instrumental entitled “Intermission.”
Acetone finds its focus on I Guess I Would, but the subject is surprising: country music. The trio performs sleepy-eyed versions of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Juanita,” John Prine’s “The Late John Garfield Blues” and five other favorites, taking all that is languid and atmospheric from the originals (except for the relatively raucous eleven-minute version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Border Lord”) and leaving the rest behind.
The results of I Guess I Would‘s roots searching linger on If You Only Knew, adding a weepy undercurrent of emotion to the band’s low-key songs of relationship trouble. “I’ve Enjoyed as Much of This as I Can Stand” and “99” trudge with all the restrained power of a Neil Young slow-roller. Only on “The Final Say,” for which Acetone turns the distortion pedal and metronome up a few notches, does the music’s medicated veneer wear away, revealing a great ’60s-style garage-rock band. Appropriately, it’s in the lyrics to “The Final Say” that Acetone offers its best perspective on the motivation (or lack thereof) behind its music: “I’m so tired, but I’m on fire.”
Richie Lee died at home in Los Angeles on July 23, 2001. He was 34.