Whether it’s sibling rivalry or brotherly love, there’s good chemistry on The Great Pop, an album created entirely by Erik and Jeremy Schmall. The pop is good indeed, but not quite the kind you’d hear on your radio. This sounds more like the pop K Records was triumphing back in the 1990s – simple, largely acoustic based, catchy and personal numbers, reeking with DIY attitude and spilling over with charm. The fact that Jeremy is billed as “lead poet” strengthens my belief that this sounds like Jason Traeger (and other Olympia-based indie singer/songwriters).
I think the disc is filled with neat ideas, such as handclaps and sing-along echo that close out ‘Just Enough Rope For You’. Other tracks like ‘Cherry Fountains’ make you unwittingly bob your head, reminiscent of the subtle hooks found on Beck’s Mutations. ‘Nevermind Nevermind’ is a wonderful experiment in sound, literally circling the drain in your brain when you listen with headphones.
However, taking all positive comments into consideration, there are still some glaring faults that I cannot look past. First and foremost is the obvious fact that the brothers would benefit from a real drummer, rather than relying on a drum machine with average sound quality and rudimentary programming. At times the beat is thankfully under the radar, at others it’s unfortunately distracting. Truly this is a pop record, but it bears little resemblance to the traditional pop scene (whether on the airwaves or underground) aside from the clean, clutter-free production. Occasionally the verse-chorus-verse structure is dismissed, some songs end too abruptly, and others sound more like (albeit inspired) half-thoughts a la early Guided By Voices. A final notice: After a decade-plus of listening to indie rock I’m nearly immune to vocalists hitting the wrong notes. If you haven’t built up a tolerance yourself, be prepared. Not on my highlight reel but I’ll revisit when in the mood for a different kind of pop.
-Mark Hughson 9/8/05