Adventures In Stereo – Alternative Stereo Sounds

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

This is a tough one. I have two albums by this band, one of which i like (not this one) and one of which I don’t really like (this one). I own this album in particular because it is a Bobsled Records release, and I have an inexplicable soft spot for the label. Bobsled was run out of Aurora, Illinois by Bob Salerno (supposedly a former tennis pro) and Jeff Slay, and it lasted for about five years. I have managed to collect a decent percentage of their album releases. I like the logo. I like the fact that it was a local label. And, Salerno had a pretty decent ear. He famously erupted at the Waxwings (the label’s best discovery) in a letter that made its way onto the internet way back when, for insufficiently acting like rock stars at an Abbey Pub show. I am convinced that someone should write the Bobsled Records story. Anyway, as for Adventures in Stereo, I had to remind myself that it was formed by Jim Beattie, and that he also, previously, formed Primal Scream (with Bobby Gillespie, one-time drummer for the Jesus and Mary Chain). I don’t love this band or even really like them. Monomania is where it all came together for them, but even that is not enough. In the end, AIS are an almost unnoticeable blip in my collection; not bad but not something that generates passion.

What I Think of This Album

This is not bad at all. It’s just not memorable. Also, the lead vocals (by Judith Boyle) are of that thin, high-register variety that I generally don’t care for, and that the poppy sound is fairly delicate and precious. Part of the problem is the wispy nature of the entire affair; nothing sticks around long enough, there is a lot of it, and much of it sounds very similar.

The gossamer vocals and bloodless music spread out over 18 tracks enter and leave your ears in about 30 minutes. The longest track can’t quite exert itself for three minutes and most of its neighbors exhale their last sighs in under two minutes. This is like cotton candy in gnat-proportioned bites. Surprisingly, the hidden 19th track (at over six minutes long!) offers up some muscular guitar work and harmonium (?) completely at odds with the rest of the album, and not at all unwelcome.

At its best, the band creates pretty, melodic, girl-group inflected (razor-thin) slices of hazy pop, though they show they are capable of more. “Out of Sight” has a quasi-Beach Boys melody and noticeable pulse; “I Once Knew” is wistfully morose and has an actual Beach Boys melody (lifted from “In the Parking Lot”); “A Brand New Day” is an uplifting tune with a nice keyboard hook, and “Here Together” is similarly sunny, while “Long Live You” is catchy and sweet-natured. Variety comes with “I See,” which features a refreshing rhythmic change of pace, and the insistent fuzz bass in “Catch My Soul.” Take these seven songs, lengthen each to three minutes, add the hidden track and four more tunes of at least decent quality, and this band would’ve had a really good album on its hands.

Beattie and Boyle were previously in Spirea X (named after a Primal Scream song)

The Best Thing About This Album

Did I mention that this is Bobsled release? The stolen Beach Boys melody? I get a kick out of the liner notes, which telegraph perhaps not a little megalomania (is there such a thing as a little megalomania?), as they tout “all songs composed, arranged, written, and produced by” Jim, who further goes on to explain that he is the “leader,” as well as the guitarist. Okay.

Release Date

1998

The Cover Art

Not good. The all lowercase text is annoying, the polarized look of the orange/yellow toned portrait is not appealing, and it all lacks any sort of character. The use of light and shadow by the photographer (surprisingly, not Jim) is effective.

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