By: Eric G.
A friend of mine walked in while I was listening to Blue by The Olive Group. "What is this?" she said indignantly. "The Olive Group", I replied with no further explanation. "This is horrible", she added, "they sound so local band…are you going to be mean when you review it because you should be?" This Austin, Texas quartet's first EP serves up somewhat maudlin, jazz-inflected retro-pop in a strange mix of The Sea And Cake and Elephant 6-style jam rock. While I wouldn't go so far as my friend in saying that this is horrible, I will admit it's not a record I would choose to listen to ever again- not because it's that bad, but simply because it's not that good.
If you want jazzy pop done right you've got The Sea And Cake not to mention countless lounge pop acts, and the Elephant 6 roster is already way overcrowded with retro-jam rock fusion. I can't imagine that there is a demand for more of the same. Despite The Olive Group's competence musically, its creativity is stymied by a distinct lack of direction. There are above-average moments, though. The title-track is one example. Its sliding jazz chords are undeniably catchy, but the vocals drag it down with a poorly matched double-tracking technique. The EP slowly heads downward from there. "Cat And Mouse" continues to cling to the chirping jazz while injecting a bit of Pavement-style indie rock.
"The Night Is So Heavy" must be the song my friend walked in on. It does have that "local" band feel to it- that misguided sense of what constitutes a ballad. Slow burners are hard enough to pull off even by masters like Lou Barlow and should be entered into only when absolutely certain there is something interesting or exciting happening. The Olive Group could use a few tips on entertainment that every start-up band should take to heart: just because it's you making the noise does not mean that anyone else is going to care, so make it entertaining. "Seem To Say" wakes me back up, but the awkward mix of slack-jawed vocals (again badly double-tracked) with clean indie pop just sounds lazy.
The last two songs are unforgivably boring, and the band's latent jam-rock tendencies unfortunately blossom on them. The vocals sound even worse when not double-tracked. "The Air And The Wet" and "Pictures" wouldn't even be so bad without the tuneless warbling. The guitars chime and the songs actually builds up some tension. I don't know if the singer was going for some kind of unrehearsed emotive technique, but whatever it is it doesn't work. God, the more I listen to this the worse it gets. Note to The Olive Group- get a tuner, practice before recording, and mix the vocals down. I've run out of advice. Perhaps, my friend wasn’t overstating things when she trashed it.