The High Llamas

Checking In, Checking Out

Song Review by

Although the shorthand description of the High Llamas usually involves phrases like "shameless Brian Wilson imitators," that's never really been the case. Even on their most overtly Pet Sounds-influenced album, 1994's Gideon Gaye, other influences, such as Brazilian bossa nova and European film soundtracks, are obvious. And if the album's first single, "Checking in, Checking Out," is a skilled imitation of anything, it's mid-period Steely Dan; this song would not sound out of place on Katy Lied. The tinkling electric piano and the meandering, vaguely jazzy melody are the first tip-off, but Sean O'Hagan's vocal phrasing in the chorus clinches it. Both his vocal timbre and the combination of emphases and pauses ("why be shy when you can KICK...the CAN...and shout") is pure Donald Fagen. (In at least one interview, O'Hagan admitted that the song was completely inspired by Steely Dan, one of his favorite groups.) That obvious inspiration aside, the song is still a classic High Llamas track: O'Hagan's nearly symphonic string and brass arrangements and his typically unusual choice of instrument groupings, not to mention the roundabout way the song slowly fades into the next track, are key to the High Llamas' sound.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Checking In, Checking Out 1992 Alpaca Park 5:52
Gideon Gaye 1994 V2 5:45
Retrospective, Rarities & Instrumentals 2003 V2 5:46
No Image
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution