Five years after the release of their debut full-length, Mayfeeder, earwig resurfaced from the Columbus, OH indie rock underground with 1999's Perfect Past Tense. A more streamlined effort than Mayfeeder, Perfect Past Tense tends to focus less on the alternatively dreamy and discordant expanse of guitars on the earlier release, and instead spotlights frontman/guitarist Lizard McGee's knack for writing catchy grungey pop hooks with savvy, sad lyrics.
Sometimes tagged emo (more in regard to the lyrical slant than the musical one, it would seem), earwig exists in the same dynamic and trebley realm as groups like Superchunk, Preston Furman, and Built to Spill (in BTS's glorious pop moments, not the nine-minute guitar epics).
An album highlight, "Anatomical Gift," perfectly displays McGee's plaintive vocals as he pleads "Put your lips up to my mouth/And suck my heart right out." Previously available as part of the group's 1994 live effort, Bored In Chicago (recently re-released on CD by McGee's own Lizard Family Music imprint), "Cinema East" proves to be another highlight, with its acoustic intro and furious electric climax. Perfect Past Tense also includes several other tracks that were previously available only on Bored in Chicago, including "Sleep With Me," "Dress," "Nineteen," "Anything," and "Stain."
"Drag" and "Two Dragons" are more on the peppy side (musically, at least), the latter finding McGee asking "Now that you're gone/Who is going to/ Ignore me now/ And let me down?" Other lines like "I'll move on to the next Nirvana now/I'm not bored, just uninspired" may be allusions to the mid-'90s speculation by Entertainment Weekly and others that McGee's home base of Columbus, OH was set to be the next Seattle, but it wasn't.
At 13 tracks, Perfect Past Tense is a well-balanced selection of fuzzy, guitar-driven indie-rock that should come as a welcome gift to listeners tired of indie-rock riddled with coy new wave-isms and college rock snootiness and insincerity.