Jam Sabbatical

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Garlic's Jam Sabbatical is many different things -- quirky, eccentric, amusing, droll, melancholy, clever, vulnerable, poignant. It's also noticeably well done, for the most part. This 2003 release draws on a variety of influences ranging from Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Thomas Dolby to Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement. At times, there is something very European about the band's alternative pop/rock -- and yet, some of Garlic's main influences are American (including New York's Reed and Chicago's Smashing Pumpkins). But whatever comparisons one makes, Garlic ultimately projects a recognizable identity of its own -- one that owes something to both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. For all its eccentricity, Jam Sabbatical isn't an exercise in weirdness for the sake of weirdness. Mike Wyzgowski, Garlic's lead vocalist and songwriter, has some things on his mind -- and his observations on relationships and life in general have a way of being funny and melancholy at the same time. Take "The Stenhousemuir of Love," for example. The song is about loneliness and Wyzgowski's dark-humored lyrics manage to simultaneously laugh and cry. They don't laugh and cry in a loud, boisterous fashion; Wyzgowski's humor is dry and subtle rather than slapstick, and that is one thing that's very British about his approach -- British humor, as a rule, tends to be more subtle than American humor. But while Wyzgowski has obviously mastered the art of subtlety, he has no problem getting his points across. And even though Jam Sabbatical isn't perfect -- some of the tracks are more memorable than others -- this CD paints a generally attractive and promising picture of Garlic.

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