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Juno's Garden

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    5
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In the context of most performers' careers, this album -- a thoroughly average commercial-leaning jangle rock recording of the mid-1990s -- would be thoroughly unremarkable, a document of a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear. In the context of the career of Damien Youth -- who played guitar, sang, and wrote the songs -- it's downright weird. This enigmatic figure has, since around 1990, specialized in mysterious lo-fi psychedelic folk creations that sounded as if they'd been recorded in a perennially cloudy, verdant field. Yet, here was an album that sounded like it was trying its damnedest to attract the attention of a major record label, with its booming drums, ringing guitars, bellowing self-important vocals, and unlikably unimaginative riffs. Such blatant by-numbers strategizing was and is by no means rare by unknown bands. It hardly ever works, either artistically or in terms of bringing in the cash, and, coming from Damien Youth, it's a disappointment. In fact, he'd agree with you, having left the band after its release to go right back to crafting his charming, little-known, alternate-universe indie music on various albums credited to himself and other side projects, as if nothing had happened. Still, once in a while there's a little glimpse of the eccentricity and melodic gifts that are typical of the rest of his catalog. "Faith," for instance, really doesn't sound too different from Damien Youth's usual stuff (perhaps he was trying to slip in something in case commercial radio happened to glom onto that track?), and "Brainchild" could have been repurposed for one of his records with radical rearrangement.