The(e) Speaking Canaries

  • The(e) Speaking Canaries
  • The Joy of Wine (Mind Cure) 1993 
  • Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged (Mind Cure) 1995  (Scat) 1995 
  • Like-Like Homes (Scat) 1998 

If you’ve been staying up late wondering when the indie scene would spawn its own Joe Satriani, Damon Che (Fitzgerald) is the man to — no value judgment intended — give you a good night’s sleep. Che, who spends part of his time manning the drums in Pittsburgh prog-punk instrumental trio Don Caballero, uses his other trio as a conduit for technique-obsessed, sporadically riveting guitar explorations — not to mention an unhealthy fixation on the oeuvre of (no, really) Eddie Van Halen.

On its debut, The(e) Speaking Canaries demonstrates a reasonable fluency in free-form freakouts that owe a fair amount to psychedelic brethren like Crystalized Movements, but the compound fractures in both recording quality and compositional consummation result in a half-baked effort. The sprawling Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged, however, boasts some emphatically mesmerizing moments: Che unskeins some of the more fetching controlled feedback explorations you’re likely to hear, especially “Summer’s Empty Resolution” and the Middle Eastern-tinged “Famous No Space.” When he and comrades Karl Hendricks (the singer/guitarist of the trio that bears his name plays bass here) and Noah Leger (also the drummer in Hurl) coalesce, they project a mightily fuzzy roar that could be called garage-rock — providing the garage in question is scaled to house an aircraft carrier. But when they resort to Van Halen covers — as they do twice on the album — you’ll think you’re in Hades’ first Ground Round lounge. The album was recorded twice with little variation in repertoire: Scat’s is the standard one, while the Mind Cure edition offers the same material in impenetrable lo-fi.

[Deborah Sprague]