The Los Angeles rock scene is full of bands who have one trick, one sound, and one mood, and however good each may be, it pales after a while. Harvette is a marked exception; like XTC, they manage the feat of making highly varied music and still impressing it with a sense of their own humor and character. One of the few other L.A. bands to pull this off in the previous five years was Baby Lemonade, and it's no great surprise that Harvette bassist and vocalist, Dave Chapple, spent some time with that bravely eclectic band. Harvette is more than a rehash of Baby Lemonade, though; these tunes are very much a collaboration, with guitarist Danny Allen providing vocals and most of the lyrics, Chapple much of the musical direction, and drummer Michael Kinkade laying down some genuinely inventive beats to make the whole thing hang together. For instance, the junk percussion and cowbells on "Marigold" fit the character of the song, which sounds like a piece from the turn of the 20th century reinterpreted for the 21st. Elsewhere the band turns out intriguing and intelligent art pop, hauling out Beatlesque harmonies, feedback squalls, and Western-flavored pedal steel guitar depending on what each song needs. The songwriting is first-rate and quite unpredictable, with sophisticated ideas well handled. The ironic "Change of Address," about an aging husband seeking to recapture his youth by leaving his wife, focuses on a subject that few rock bands care to address. Harvette tries all sorts of things on this album, and miraculously they all work. This is one of the freshest and most exciting debut albums in recent memory, sparkling with bold ideas perfectly executed.
by Richard Foss