Details At Eleven

Details at Eleven

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Confronted by an unjustly neglected work of vinyl involving young New York musicians in the '80s, working in a highly collaborative manner and relegated to releasing their music on an obscure German label that operates out of a man's dresser closet, expectations will be high. Details at Eleven composed pieces either as a group, or accepted works from members Lin Culbertson and David Humphrey, written either singly or in pair, and the range of styles and sounds is impressive. During the beginning sections of "Attention," comments could be made about the lameness of the major labels and how what seems like perfectly acceptable commercial rock became indie fodder, part of an underground scene that in past times had been reserved for the truly weird. Other sections of the record are indeed much too far out for the majors, despite the fact that Frank Zappa did have some success placing similar instrumental passages into the teenage market. Since this is a New York band of the late '80s, it is no surprise either that there are passages of sheer, stark, and aggressive noise, as well as cleverly built-in escape valves from the very same. At times, ponderously dull rhythmic patterns settle over the proceedings as if an effort were being made to attract the clientele of the frat bar down the street. Liberated from actual commercial considerations and spurred on by the jumpy creativity of the scene around them, this band comes up with some intriguing scenarios: it's rock music, but hardly limited or handicapped by the genres' limitations -- indeed, the previously mentioned rhythmic handicaps beg the question of whether this band is actually more uptight about such things then a so-called normal rock band would be. It might be the amount of concentration that is required by the sometimes-complex arrangements, allowing tunes such as the clever "Marketplace" to flirt with pop before bringing in what sounds like orchestrated air raid sirens. The dominant singing voice is Culbertson's, bringing up wanted or unwanted references to groups such as Jefferson Starship when in tune and well-recorded, and the punk swagger of Frightwig when out of tune and/or distorted. One of the best things that can be said about the group is that the vocal and instrumental numbers, though quite different in context, are equally interesting, in each case making one look forward to the other.

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