It's Always Been There

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Records by skateboard hero Tommy Guerrero possess a shambling glory that's allied to the rich (if not particularly long) tradition of experimental four-track recording. The first album by Guerrero's friend Gresham (Taylor) has that same lo-fi charm, plus an expanded view of hook-laden acoustic pop, all delivered in a yearning, sun-soaked voice -- occasionally recalling Adam Duritz or Lou Barlow (in a good way) -- that fits the record perfectly. Gresham's better at standard songwriting than Guerrero, and the off-kilter productions give these standard pop songs a bite that's a great balance between pop and experimentation. Just a few songs lean uncomfortably close to experimenting for its own sake, as on "Tony Ishmar," when the band appears to be attempting to recall Tortoise, or indulging in a half-hearted Steely Dan impersonation. Most of the time, however, the ambling passages are integrated well; the transition from "Octopus" to "Come In" definitely benefits from recordings of kids on the playground (and the latter song actually interpolates a few of the same squeals of delight). A great debut that doesn't wear out its welcome, It's Always Been There is a delightfully skewed vision of slacker indie pop.

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