Gay Tastee

Gayest Hits, Vols. 1-2

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The first proper album from Stephen Gaylord under his working pseudonym Gay Tastee, Gayest Hits Vols. 1-2, consists almost entirely of tracks previously released on limited-issue mixes and compilations. This two-CD set can honestly only be recommended to the most ardent of lo-fi loyalists, as anyone else will be frustrated early on by the general lack of studio polish. Gayest Hits actually contains some solid lyrical work, drawing cynical, foreboding character sketches not dissimilar from those that John Darnielle creates in his Mountain Goats' albums. Unfortunately, the gems of insight and expression are hidden all too well behind the fuzzy, trebly sound and Gaylord's over-reliance on profanity as a shortcut means of demonstrating honesty. His obsessions with getting stoned and dismissing everyone around him as lazy, thoughtless, and unfairly compensated are laid on a bit thick, but are often expressed quite cleverly, as on "Bedwetter": "I'm not a man with a plan, just a boy with a brain / I'll let you get the big chunks and I'll just take what remains." A similar storyline is expressed well in the harsh, tense "Taming the Lyon," which segues very sensibly into the defeatist anthem "Sixteen Tons." These highlights are exceptions, unfortunately; more common are unnecessary tunes like "The Krakow Kid" and "Homo Radio" that are simply unfocused and sloppy. Gay Tastee hides not only behind his name, but behind sharply over-trebled vocal distortions, his true voice evoking in turns Neil Young's embittered whine and Billy Corgan's naked howl. The title Gayest Hits, of course, is snarky irony: There's nothing here remotely resembling a "hit" by any measure, nor is any of the content "gay" by any definition. Indeed, the disturbing cover art, featuring a morose man with advanced vitiligo, goes a long way to clarifying that the material is meant primarily for outsiders in the lo-fi camp. Even lo-fi benefits from a rigorous editing and rewriting process, though, a notion Gay Tastee generally dismisses to his peril on Gayest Hits.

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