Modesto, CA: other than bringing back memories of George Lucas' American Graffiti, there isn't much else to think about the town. Well, except of course for the fact that it is also the hometown of indie's Grandaddy. So in A Pretty Mess by This One Band (a very early mini-album/EP), listeners are given a brief look into the lo-fi stuttering of a band constantly hoping to grow out of its own limitations -- which has mixed results. The album is at its weakest when the band seems to reproduce far too many American college-favored indie bands already out there. For instance, after a brief intro, the first full song -- "Taster" -- fails precisely because it never ascends out of its mound of discordant guitars and mumbling drawls. It's not bad songwriting, but it comes across as so many countless other college bands, and it never turns any heads as a result. A song like "Kim, You Bore Me to Death," however, is on a better footing: unlike most of the rest of the release, it seems less like Pavement's postmodernism and more like Pixies' squalls (lead singer Jason Lytle even lets his voice climax into effective Black Francis-like screeches). Continuing the trend, the album speeds past some more unexciting tracks to reach its closing "Egg Hit and Jack Too." This closer has such an impressive mix of Yo La Tengo's more melodious thrashes and Grandaddy's own dusty restlessness that one has to wonder if the bandmembers have it in them to produce a truly great release sometime down the road. Until then, A Pretty Mess by This One Band remains a decent litmus test for the group's own potential. Definitely not as pretty as the title might suggest, but still one of the better -- although flawed -- messes from America's indie underground.
AllMusic Review by Dean Carlson