Out of Austin, Texas came Zeitgeist, two guys and two girls making moody, melodic and occasionally stunning folk-rock with a deep debt to the ’60s — although there’s plenty of modern angst and a rootsy feel more western than country. On Translate Slowly, John Croslin and Kim Longacre work up a Byrdsy guitar drone and evocative vocal interplay that either lulls with a tepid sonic wash (“Cowboys”) or explodes with brooding fury (“Things Don’t Change”) and hot-breath passion (“Araby”). Croslin’s dry-as-dust vocals mix equal measures of desire and distance, but Longacre’s classically trained harmonies soar on a remake of Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
Forced to abandon the Zeitgeist name by a Minneapolis percussion ensemble that had it first, the quartet chose an equally inappropriate new handle. (Capitol stickered the second LP with the band’s former name. DB returned the favor by stickering copies of Translate Slowly with a wry mention of the new name but later switched the artwork and reissued it as a Reivers record, putting three bonus tracks on the CD.)
Both sides of the Don Dixon-produced Saturday begin with hard-edged Pylonesque syncopation, but otherwise the LP consists of unpretentious guitar pop suggesting 10,000 Maniacs with less idiosyncrasy. The band’s personality hinges on appealing vocals; ironically, a nutty instrumental (“Karate Party”) is one of the record’s standouts. The ability to change gears from delicate melodicism (“Electra”) to driving rock (“Wait for Time,” “Secretariat”) is a definite asset. (The CD adds a bonus track.)
End of the Day finds the Reivers moving into adulthood with grace and ease, dropping much of the early discs’ otherworldly wispiness in favor of a more measured, down-to-earth feel. The approach is well-suited to Croslin’s bittersweet songs, which reflect grown-up dilemmas (“It’s About Time,” “Cut Above”) and irretrievable losses (“Star Telegram,” “Discontent of Winter”) with insight and empathy. The vocal interplay between Croslin and Longacre truly blossoms here, and Longacre shines on her solo showcases (including “Lazy Afternoon,” a Broadway show tune originally performed by Barbra Streisand). There’s also yet another nifty guitar instrumental, “Dude Man Hey.” The Reivers broke up in late ’91.