The Great Plains

Before We Stop to Think

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Whereas earlier Great Plains releases like Naked at the Buy, Sell, and Trade were bouncy and fun with a slightly dark edge, with Before We Stop to Think the band all but abandoned its former lighthearted approach in favor of a darker, more severe sound. OK, so it isn't exactly dark and moody like Bauhaus or anything like that, but it feels less giddily spontaneous than the band's earlier efforts. Instead, it has a restrained air. Formulaic may be too strong a word, but it's not too far off the mark. While this slightly stiff approach may simply be attributable to the fact that Before We Stop to Think is an EP, a format often used as a clearinghouse for B list material, it may also be an indication of the band's (or at least frontman Ron House's) waning enthusiasm, which ultimately inspired House to fold the group in 1989. Before We Stop to Think's seven songs are constructed of the trademark Great Plains sound. Warm, bouncy organ fills the spaces left open by fairly sparse, jangling guitars and House's university-grade cynicism and trebly vocals (much more sing-songy here than in his later outfit, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments). Still, there is some indescribable spark missing. The sexually charged "Appetite" (along with "Martin Luther King and Martin Luther Drinking") hints at the band's earlier wryness (sex and booze being central GP themes), but for the most part the record seems rather out of character because, frankly, the band sounds bored. Notable among the tracks is what the band later dubbed "an extremely unfaithful" (but quite attention-grabbing) cover of Leonard Cohen's "The War." Whereas the song would probably have seemed greatly out of place on other Great Plains records, sandwiched between songs about fanzines, Rutherford B. Hayes, and a bandmember's need to urinate, it seems perfectly at home aboard Before We Stop to Think. Released only on vinyl, Before We Stop to Think is all but impossible to find, but collectors stand their best chance of obtaining it at the House-run Used Kid's Records in Columbus, OH. However, for those not planning to venture to the Buckeye State, most of the tracks on Stop also appear on the CD-only Great Plains two-disc retrospective, Length of Growth.