Preston School of Industry Monsoon

[Matador; 2004]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: alternative country, indie rock
Others: The Jayhawks, The Byrds, Built To Spill

Dr. James Hamilton once said, "persevering mediocrity is much more respectable, and unspeakably more useful than talent inconstancy" or, in other words, that overachievers are generally more enjoyable than coasters. As the mainstay of former Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg, Preston School Of Industry falls under the latter. The lazy alt. country of Monsoon lacks the fun of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and the hazy angst of Slanted & Enchanted, basically, the charisma of anything he released with Stephen Malkmus. The times when Preston's School lets loose sees them close to remembering the good old days of indie, but these occasions often hit flat with the absence of noise pop production in exchange for traditional country instrumentation that ultimately weighs the project down, coming off like just another niche rock band. During some of the more composed moments, the album manages to shine out in semi desolate wonder; but most of the time, Monsoon sounds too much like the Jonathan Richman two-piece band from There's Something About Mary to outrun the malaise of mediocrity that blankets it. This makes the album exceedingly difficult to review because, as ecstatic as I am that Kannberg didn't just make some bellbottoms and form another AC/DC rip-off retro band like so many tragic miscreants of our time, the overall feeling you're left with is average to the point of ordering vanilla at Baskin-Robbins. It would be easier, and a lot more fun, to rave about this album if it had more of a signature or trash it if it wasn't so clean-cut and likeable. Not loving this album is like having to layoff a good friend of yours; you wish things were different, but that's just the way it is. You can't fight progress.

1. The Furnace Sun
2. Walk Of A Gurl
3. Caught In The Rain
4. Line It Up
5. So Many Ways
6. If The Straits Of Magellan Should Ever Run Dry
7. Her Estuary Twang
8. Escalation Breeds Escalation
9. Get Your Crayons Out!
10. Tone It Down