Written by: Dave Cantrell
It was 1989 I was 33 years old and moving to Portland from San Francisco don’t ask me why it’s too long a story involving doctors running red lights and broken bones and a decent-if-not-great cash settlement but the point here is I stopped in Ashland to rest for the night at a friend’s place and said friend it probably goes without saying worked at the town’s only record store and of course I arrived before they closed and of course I stopped in to say ‘Hey, I’m here’ and browse and of course I bought a few things but the only one I remember for sure (bought on spec because of its strikingly bold if straightforward cover) was by a band I’d yet heard of called LMNOP which as it turns out was their vinyl debut entitled elemen opee elpee the entire concept of which was damnably clever in a way where it was both surprising and not surprising that no one had ever thought to use that name before but anyway got it back to my pal’s place and gave it a spin and I’ll be damned if the din within didn’t tweak a theretofore untweaked chord in me that suggested something akin to Buzzcocks as a solo American bedroom recording project (even though there was an actual band involved then) and while suitably impressed truth be told life’s a way too busy bastard not least when upping sticks and moving six hundred plus miles north and besides that there are always too many records cycling through our lives and even as I kept hold of the vinyl for years the presence of the record receded to the usual shadows of my consciousness where despite that its cover remained visible what with its near neon sign-like visibility and thus due the fondness of those memories was I delighted when a publicist appeared out of the whirl of the gmail cosmos a couple weeks ago and asked if I’d write up a review of the newest audio outing from the artist known to the listening world as LMNOP AKA doNW7 (to distinguish the OG LMNOP from a shyster cabal of thieves and imitators – turn those letters upside down) AKA the auteur behind the long-running somewhat manic-y and often elliptical babysue comix persona also known to his mum and the DMV as Stephen Fievet and at this point I feel that those of you that have read this far need to know – before I take a breath – that this flagrant cheaply-innovative run-on rollercoaster prose you’ve been stuck inside of the last few minutes wasn’t a choice I chose but rather one that was thrust upon me by a multiplicity of factors among them 1) the only possible fitting response/tribute to the unrelenting durability as a fringey inventive but nonetheless (oh the sweet irony) mainstream-chasing artist in not one but two disciplines 2) the friendly bouncy torrent of the sixteen (!) songs that flash by you on this brilliant record which isn’t to mention 3) being up against a deadline I promised to meet but failed to add to my calendar so now you understand or at least I hope you understand the urgency of my pen.
OK, big breath, a couple videos, and…go!
Self-released July 16th – hey, that’s today! – on Fievet’s own babysue imprint and impeccably mastered by the incomparable Jason NeSmith with the artist in the fullest possible expression of the DIY ethos writing arranging recording and – quelle surprise – playing every instrument himself whatNOP dOWN7 exudes the expected bursting aura of self-reliance as well a surpassingly assured command of literate and punchy power-pop that quite literally sounds as fresh as ever and in fact sounds as if zero energy and drive has been lost or eroded since that day in Ashland thirty-two years ago which is for one a damned promising thought if you’re asking me and for two testimony to the pervasive persuasive and perseverant talent we’re talking about here the gist of which will slap you giddily and expertly about the ears throughout this new album from the opening pop rant slice of semi-anti-materialism “Things” through the slow-dance glide of “Know” and “Nuclear Trust”‘s perky off-kilter bop and the gritty garage-y – OK, more carport-y maybe but still – romp of “Blurry” to the trilling gently thrilling “Best Mistake” to which just about any of us can relate all the way to the valedictory sway of close-out track “Milkshake” all of it catchy clever craftful intuitively sussed and fucking well done indeed the lyrics yes a bit cryptic yet their intent somehow quite piercing at times and thereby seeming simultaneously cockeyed and cocksure and the last thing I’ll mention is this: The perhaps closest analog we have in terms of hard-headed and brilliant go-it-along individualism is R Stevie Moore but even our Stevie while far more musically prolific than Mr Fievet (and just about anyone else, really) can’t lay claim to a comix publishing legacy that damn near overshadows the rocky rolly ramalama pop of the LMNOP catalog which is truly saying something as it is quite considerable in its own right.
In short? Another great record from a terrific American tunesmith that has been too unsung for far too long. America, make amends.