Dharma Bums

  • Dharma Bums
  • Haywire (PopLlama Products) 1989  (PopLlama Products/Frontier) 1989 
  • Bliss (Frontier) 1990 
  • Welcome (Frontier) 1992 

Nothing fancy or stylish about this unassuming Portland, Oregon quartet — just tight little melodic rock (plus country and punk) tunes played with youthful enthusiasm and sung with endearingly gangly harmonies. On the band’s promising — but not quite convincing — debut, the mixture of Jeremy Wilson’s mislocated drawl and guitarist Eric Lovre’s kinetic inventiveness sets the Dharma Bums on a college-radio road between non-Byrdsy R.E.M. and a soft-center Replacements.

Bliss finds the band sporting a trebly guitar attack (with occasional feedback), erasing the first album’s twinkier tendencies with uncut aggressive rock. Several songs are tersely effective (“Pumpkinhead,” “Far From Gone,” “B-Sting,” the countryfied “A Place to Be”), but too many others are tunelessly below the good-to-go level for this samey-sounding record to be anything like its title.

Welcome, the quartet’s solidly entertaining third album, was released under feisty Southern California independent Frontier’s deal with the behemoth BMG to no commercial effect.

[Ira Robbins]