Learning to Walk

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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart

Like all juvenalia -- and this compilation certainly fits the description, gathering all Sole's singles, demos, and experiments recorded between 1994 and 1998, prior to the release of his official debut, Bottle of Humans -- Learning to Walk is raw and, in spots, unformed. Technique sometimes trumps substance, youthful irony and sardonicism occasionally replaces genuine awareness, and Sole tries out a number of stylistic variations, some that fit perfectly (kinetic, challenging songs like "The Video Game Song," "Mr. Bojangles," "Body of Works," and "Give Me My Medal"), some that don't quite work somehow (too insular, claustrophobic), and some that are wholly uncharacteristic yet surprisingly affective (such as the lighthearted, jovial throwback cut "Banquet of Sarcasm," on which he even encourages listeners to -- gasp -- dance). So, yes, these can be described more or less as baby steps, bedroom manifestos. That having been said, an evident talent was clearly at work even at such an early stage. The production is generally quite bare-bones but full of intriguing ideas. The keen intellect is just as apparent, if chaotically applied. It's like watching the weird kid in the corner of the classroom that picks off scabs and draws complex ink patterns on his forearms -- he partly exists in his own world but partly, perhaps subconsciously, wants to draw attention to himself -- and knowing full well that he'll become the wooly headed loner in your modernist poetry class doing his thesis on Ezra Pound's The Cantos a few years later. Learning to Walk is of variable quality, but it is worth sifting through for the many choice bits.

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