Jason Loewenstein 

At Sixes and Sevens

You don't have to know that Jason Loewenstein was a founding member of Sebadoh to know the sound: Jangly guitar lines, uncomfortably bent strings, and the raw, gnarled sounds of an unfiltered guitar amp. On his solo debut, he plays all the instruments as well as engineers and produces, creating a record where the guitar is the central player -- the great protagonist to which all characters react.

The energetic opener "Codes" and the final track "Transform" show what one can achieve with a guitar and a couple of pedals. On these tracks, as well as the album's most successful song, "Roswell to Jerusalem," Loewenstein proves just how superfluous 24-track recording and computer production really are. These are great, short, bouncy numbers which will easily quell anybody's doubts about indie rock's resourcefulness.

Loewenstein's vocals have vigor, but are not impressively evocative. But by making the guitar paramount he doesn't seem to place much confidence in them, keeping his words floating in the background not so much as a melody but as a distant harmonizing to his handiwork. Perhaps he's finally getting revenge for being told too many times in his youth to turn down his amp.

The principal charm of At Sixes and Sevens, and its greatest detriment, is its lo-fi loyalty. Too often there's an unsure, lumbering feeling, such as the silly power-chord headbanger "H/M" or the slumbering dissonance of "More Drugs." Abrupt chord and tempo shifts permeate the album, but they often feel unwisely thrown together, like an omelette of Sunday morning leftovers. At Sixes and Sevens is an uneven effort -- at times a tight and purposeful display of musicianship, at others an aimless meandering of indie guitar showmanship. While it all comes from the same book Sebadoh used, Loewenstein's debut lacks the group's cohesive sound and discernment. This is a raw, unrelenting record with a big heart, but there's something too unbalanced about it to listen to it straight through.

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