31 Flavors combines Douglas' first two albums, Minor Wave and The Burdens of Genius (originally released on vinyl by Voltage), onto one CD. The debut is a respectable lo-fi indie pop effort, handicapped (as many such recordings were) by a mechanical percussive sound. On the other hand, it has some nonchalant wise-guy charm, as well as a decent grasp of intelligent songwriting hooks, in something like a more pop-oriented Lou Reed mode. If that sounds kind of like the Violent Femmes, that comparison's not far off the mark, especially as Douglas isn't averse to combining acoustic and electric guitars. Sometimes he gets adventurous with the arrangements to good effect, as on "King of Industry," with its synthetic-sounding brass and crossfire of fuzzy riffs; the tinkling basement piano of "Groom Lake"; and the spectral falsetto vocals of "Lullaby." The Burdens of Genius, oddly, sounds a little more primitive and folk-based than his maiden recording. The 16 songs, presented in a folk-rockish indie setting, have a smarmy but not overwhelming wit. Sometimes he can yelp in an idiot-savant-type vein ("Name"), and there is an occasional ode to a pop culture icon ("Dennis Wilson," "Prince"). More often, this is reasonably competent, if somewhat immature, indie rock with a flippant attitude, probably more enjoyable when heard busked acoustically on a sidewalk than on record.
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