His Name Is Alive

Nice Day [EP]

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Since Warren Defever's outfit is from Livonia, MI, near Ann Arbor and Detroit, they claimed they were going in the studio to record something outside of the 1966-1969 Beach Boys-inspired chamber pop of their last LP, Stars on ESP, and closer to their region's '60s roots -- in other words, Motown mixed with the Stooges/MC5 proto-punk antecedents. The six-song result is pretty damn good. Tracks such as "Hot Tonight" and "Wet" do achieve the scratchy claustrophobia of Fun House Stooges and the dirty riffs of Wayne Kramer's old band, while the wonderfully happy "Nice Day" and "Come" are begging for the great Marvin Gaye or Mary Wells to leap from their graves to sing them (or a young Smokey Robinson or Temptations would do!). But instead of going for full-on homage, Defever and gorgeous-voiced Karin Oliver stay within their recognizable, carefully crafted production ambience, with all its defining, lovely background touches. Sure, Defever works in tougher six-string bite, with hints of hard blues and R&B. But he never lays it on too thick in the mix, meaning the vocal melodies are still given precedence. And the Brian Wilson-esque tambourines, bells, and Wall of Sound production (which Wilson borrowed from Phil Spector) are what transforms this apparent exercise in archeology into a now sound. It's too short at 14 minutes to be a major release, but this mini-LP is the second straight fine piece of work by this group only now quietly distinguishing itself as an energetic U.S. underground marvel, one greatly worthy of the 4AD imprint of uniqueness and quality.

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