Carol Bui This is How I Recover

[Drunken Butterfly; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: singer-songwriter, rock, blues
Others: Throwing Muses, Bellafea, Jale, Afghan Whigs, Mark Lanegan

With a voice not unlike the front-woman's to Velocity Girl, Ms. Bui gives us some of that darkly melodic, somber yet intensely wrought college rock of the early '90s that you don't hear so much these days. While it's never as poppy as Velocity Girl, the production value and arrangement is not all that dissimilar. We're talking some earnest, if somewhat drab, songs of uncertainty, tentativeness, and out-and-out pain.

The drabness comes from a sort of tonal similarity from track to track. There's nothing wrong with the plainness of Bui's voice (it fits well with the instrumentation). Nor is there fault to be found with the occasionally hokey lyrics (they never feel out of place). There's just a sheer lack of tonal variety sagging the thing down. A little flute on "Hyphen American" isn't gonna save this thing from a sort of mediocrity. Heartfelt as it all comes across, what we've got is a very fine-tuned and quietly charming indie rock record that perhaps also could've used some surprises here and there.

I don't want to flog a dead horse here, but there's no excuse for an indie rock band not to do everything it possibly can to be original. The idea that originality is overrated or impossible is so insane that I can't put it down to anything beyond arch critics trying to be original themselves. There's no reason not to try. So I guess, aside from doing more barnstormers like "The Beauty Myth," I would suggest to Carol and her collaborators that they try taking their talents and applying them in a less regimented fashion. Fine as This is How I Recover's songs are for their subtle identity, they would only benefit from some measure of bolder broad strokes. For now I can only recommend this LP as a solid, but somewhat plain, moody rock excursion.

1. Hell Banknotes
2. This is How I Recover
3. Checked For Bruises
4. I Don't Call Him By Name
5. Roses
6. A Virgin's Anthem
7. Manic Depression
8. Untitled #2
9. Hyphen American
10. The Beauty Myth

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