In 1903, a journalist named Ray Stannard Baker wrote "Not a crude western town; Portland really is a fine old city ... tree-shaded streets, comfortable homes, and plenty of churches and clubs, the signs of conservatism and respectability." Given the exodus of Bay Area folk to the City of Roses in the last few years, you can bet yer busted dot-com bippy that it ain't for the "signs of conservatism and respectability." The city has changed, and for the looser.
"I think about half of Portland is 23 years old and wants to get laid," says Six Foot Sloth guitarist Larry Yes. The Jed, SFS' main singer and lyricist, is more philosophical, citing the usual low rents and friendly people as grist for the city's bubbling indie-rock mill. But the band doesn't bubble much. It slides, sulks, and simmers a little, building sad psychedelia out of pop materials, keys and fuzz, and shufflesome drums. The songs build gently, hooks buried amid the wet shambles, set to snag you later, once you've come out from the sea and are putting on your shoes.
The Jed's voice bears a striking resemblance to that of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum, but he sings on a straighter course. He calls it "that kind of Midwestern antivibrato." He also occasionally manages to evoke the Wedding Present's David Gedge, and even Thom Yorke, all in an unassuming yet unmistakably melancholy fashion. So what could a sloth have to be so sad about, anyway? "Only being able to move so fast," says the Jed, "moss growing in your fur, vicious predators, war, working nine-to-five, 'Lost lover -- come back!,' being fourth on a four-band bill ... on a Tuesday."
Six Foot Sloth is on tour with fellow Portlanders, the Spooky Dance Band, with no Tuesdays in sight. They play the Stork Club (2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) Wednesday, with Parting Gifts; the Ramp (aka the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2236 Parker St., Berkeley) Saturday, with Dear Nora; and Sunday at the Fish Tank (3405 Piedmont Ave., Oakland) with Electric Eel Shock (Tokyo).