The next time anyone starts getting all precious about their indie-rock cred, remind ’em of further. Before becoming a prolific ’90s underground sensation groovy enough to release 7-inches on Bong Load, play their hometown’s cubbyhole of cool, Jabberjaw, get a UK deal with Creation and have Lee Ranaldo guest on their debut album, the Los Angeles trio was (with one additional member) known as Shadowland, whose lone album is an embarrassingly obvious attempt to jumpstart a pretty-boy arena career with a misbegotten and overheated mash of Tom Petty, the Waterboys, U2 and Sunset Strip glam-metal. (Like everyone else owning such a damningly skeleton-equipped closet, further now condemns the band’s music, laying the blame on producer Pat Moran and going so far as to put “The Death of an A&R Man” on Grip Tape as a belated attack on then-Geffen staffer Tom Zutaut. Of course, no one made these poseurs write songs with lyrics like “Hey there Mrs. Polka-dot/Come and lay your love on my street/Hey there Mrs. Yesterday/You just crush your will beneath my feet.” Best bio quotation: “We don’t pretend to be anything we aren’t.”) Those looking for clues to Shadowland’s future stylistic development need look no further than the absurd “Heroin Eyes”: “Her cigarette burns in my soul like the pavement keeps burning through this hole in my shoe.”
Adding untainted guitarist/drummer Josh Schwartz to their merry cabal, Florida-born brothers Darren (vocals, guitar, etc.) and Brent Rademaker (bass, vocals, etc.) and drummer Kevin Fitzgerald reinvented themselves as the murky lower-case childish-print first-names-only further, greasing their downward rehabilitation with a monstrous lo-fi noise-pop onslaught. (So much for the exaggerated faith people have in alternagod talent. As obvious as it’s always been to some, here’s irrefutable proof that any bozo with a fuzzbox and a pair of earplugs can be J Mascis or Stephen Malkmus.)
Grip Tape, recorded as badly as possible by New York scene veteran Wharton Tiers, is a riot of distortion and croaky off-key singing, straggling happily through its peppy and tuneful pop-song bits to reach the chewy center of slack squall jams each contains. More energetic than Dinosaur Jr, more melodically sensitive than Sonic Youth and less abstruse than Pavement, further cherrypicks those bands’ sounds and still manages not to reek of beer-soaked carpetbaggery. (Super Griptape is an expanded version, with four added songs to the hour.)
Having demonstrated a superior facility for wrecking shop in high chaos mode, further tried on minimalism’s simple housedress as well-a far more dubious enterprise for such a demonstrably skilled combo. (C’mon guys, we know you own guitar tuners.) The overlong 25-song Sometimes Chimes paraphrases Beck, covers Unrest (nicely pruning “Isabel” into an acoustic folk song), sketches out songs like Sebadoh on a rushed schedule and occasionally noodles around as clumsily as a bunch of ten-year-olds locked in the K Records warehouse. Actually, the album gets off to a fine start with a brace of extremely catchy pop creations cut with onslaughts of happy aggression: “Generic 7,” “Duck Pond,” “Phase Out,” “J.O.2” and especially “She Lives by the Castle 2” are all sublime mixtures of breezy allure and jagged styling that brush against British fuzzbusters like Jesus and Mary Chain, Verve and My Bloody Valentine without resorting to out-and-out replication. Basically, the first half of Sometimes Chimes would have made a solid album, but further makes like the Energizer bunny and — as it proceeds to approximate Ween, Sleepyhead, Dinosaur Jr, Half Japanese, etc. — sends the ratio of quality to futile slackery plummeting.
With Fitzgerald out of the group, Schwartz, the Rademakers and a drum machine made the nine-song Grimes Golden, a pure crystal dose of slop-pop cooked up in a busted rec-room crockpot that puts the group’s bounciest ideas in a confined space and lets them ricochet around. With a charge of Neil Young winsomeness and a few Beach Boys vocal fillips, sweet little ditties like “Artificial Freedom,” “Quiet Riot Grrrl” and “California Bummer” don’t try to move hell and earth with guitar amplification or fall apart on contact, and the resultant rudimentary intimacy is an elixir for both songs and band. Neat.
The double 7-inch Distance gives each member a two-song side of his own, with a slapdash four-song rendezvous bringing up the rear. Darren’s pair sounds most like the band, only scaled down in sound and style. Brent’s melodic sense is stronger, as is the charged assault of his guitars and the willfulness of his ineptitude (the terrible drumming on “Spheres of Influence” and the crummy punk singing on “LHS ’79’ “). Josh pours it on even harder, glorying in the hapless bluster of his deep well explorations, the first of which (“Wett Katt”) is unendurably tuneless.
The eight songs on the Japanese-only Next Time West Coast mark a giant step in further’s approach to a point that balances genuine skill and pretensions of rank amateurism. While still occasionally drifting into static meltdown and at no point even suggesting slick, the generally restrained and carefully recorded songs display more craft and chops than anything in further’s past. (So much for commitment.) However they got here, though, it would make an excellent place to rest a while: “Be That as It May” adopts a rangy Neil Young folk-rock sound that works wonders, and “Grandview Skyline” is an amusing dose of humming psychedelia. The others fall in related regions between those poles. But all this progress may be headed for danger: beneath the scowls of feedback, “You’re Just Dead Skin to Me” bears a frightening resemblance to a certain shadowy band of the not-so-distant past…
More further: the group also has chucked out singles and compilation tracks for a variety of labels, formed a festival’s worth of side bands (Summer Hits, Tugboat: 3001, Yak, Rusty Troller) and contributed a track (“Insight”) to the Joy Division tribute album A Means to an End.