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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Miighty Flashlight
Miighty Flashlight
Jade Tree Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Despite being the first release of his own project since 1986, Mike Fellows has established an intense resume of musical integrity over the past decade. You may recognize Fellows' name from his collaborations as a touring and studio musician with such notable acts as Smog, Papa M, Royal Trux, Silver Jews, Will Oldham and Neil Haggerty, but for many his most notable work was as bassist of the seminal DC punk outfit Rites Of Spring, the band posthumously credited with launching the melodic hardcore movement that has come to be loathed under the tag of "emo". On a tangential note, Rites of Spring also featured guitarist Guy Picciotto and drummer Brendan Canty, who, incase you've been on Neptune for the past fifteen years, went on to form uber-punk legends Fugazi.

Fellows' solo work, under the unfortunately spelled moniker of Miighty Flashlight, is a vast departure from his hardcore roots, directed more towards the territory charted out in detail by the intellectual indie rock types of the Chicago underground . While the combination of organic instrumentation and laptop electronics was charting new turf for many six years ago, today it is often over-used and over-simplified. In many circles, if you weren't doing it back then you can't do it now without being considered a hack, a sentiment to which I would agree, in principal. Fellows of course has been working with acoustic guitar strumming and Powerbook platforms in the studio for years, and his experience shows on the ten tracks of the Miighty Flashlight debut.

While Fellows isn't inventing anything with Miighty Flashlight, he is reinventing himself, and he is doing it smartly. "Several Water Cannons" combines quirky style composition with nonsensical but clear vocals. Musical ideas and mental notes play out in unison, both unfinished but yet warmly rendered, giving them a sort of gravity that they probably wouldn't achieve separately. The two absent minded elements are fused together in a lackadaisical expression that openly nods to Jim O'Rourke's Eureka and carries a bit of Neutral Milk Hotel charm at the same time. Tracks like "Vehicular Dome" are as suited to coastal drive time as they are to a backyard barbeque and beer swill in nylon strapped lawn furniture. Sweltering summer campfire heat or backstage club scene overdose soliloquy, a Volkswagen commercial or a late afternoon smoke and nap, Miighty Flashlight is neither brilliant nor laughable. What it is is a utilitarian orchestration that marries the new indie rock standard of acoustic-electro merger with an open ideal, a directionless statement (which I'd consider as having a joyous overtone) that, while not pinpointing a target, embraces a wide audience with warm, open arms. Highlights such as "Ballet Skool" are indicative of the new movement of American folk ideals married to the technology of a new world.

Miighty Flashlight doesn't hit as a creative benchmark, but it does score highly for its approachability and its oddly infectious appeal. While the album and individual tracks are obscure enough for the average listener to curl an eyebrow at, some of the vocal choruses and acoustic guitar musings are catchy enough to get under the skin. There are obvious cross references, but Miighty Flashlight is much more suited to fans of Will Oldham and Bob Dylan than to the followers of Oval or Aphex Twin.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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