Toby Richardson means well, absolutely -- both on initial singles and his full-length debut, Evergreen, one can easily sense how readily captivated he was by the just-messy-enough ethos of '90s indie rock, backing into the charts at most but otherwise enamored of wanting to be hooky without being too slick. His music is inspired by the first Lollapalooza generation, to an extent (or, given he's Australian, by the Big Day Out), he prefers the side stages instead of the commercial behemoths. All of which is a polite way to say that though Richardson knows and loves his stuff, Evergreen feels a little too much like a comfortable rehash to make a true impact, however. As a one-man effort creating the feeling of a band jamming together, just loosely enough, on a series of songs, Richardson's got a great ear, but far too quickly Evergreen feels like a series of standard, too easily replicated genre exercises. Songs like "Wherewithal" and "Golden Bear" wear their power pop with slight slacker mode roots well enough, but there's little that really stands out fully here, and in the end one realizes why this kind of sound eventually lost its wider appeal. It's a salute to a new formalism that hemmed itself in sonically, as much as a tribute to a vanished past. Something new and stronger may yet be in Richardson's future, but for now, Evergreen shows what happens when something static is taken for something thriving.
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