The idea that Pell Mell would have ended up on a company run by David Geffen must have seemed truly bizarre when the band first started, but that's what a little Nirvana can do for bands (and so it must have seemed for many an alternative outfit in the early '90s). By the time of Interstate's recording, David Spalding had been established as a new key and core member, and the resultant effort of the quartet was a striking and often emotional take on instrumental rock. Pell Mell's unsurprising ability to self-produce and engineer, helped out by the abilities of Tim O'Heir as well, resulted in a full-sounding, dramatic album that, even so, couldn't have been expected to be a commercial breakout by the label. As a mighty fine example of Pell Mell's talents, though, it couldn't be finer. The title is lived up to not only with the cover art, but with the wide-open feeling of many of the songs, suggesting a slightly dreamy America where there's little around but the weather and the land. "Anna Karina," with its slow pace and hints of steel guitar twang, and the lovely "Constellation" are two examples of many that call those images to mind. Then there's the motorik drive of such songs as "Saucer" (even at three and a half minutes, still a grand Can tribute [or Stereolab, if one prefers]) and "Blacktop," showing the band's longtime fascination with Krautrock now in sync with a new decade's zeitgeist. Steve Fisk's abilities to provide just the right amount of texture and drive throughout, whether it's the buzzing organ break on "Revival" or his Hammond work on "Vegetable Kingdom," show just how brilliant of a not-so-secret weapon he is, but to single him out does a disservice to the whole band. It's an ensemble performance at heart, and an excellent one.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett