it's not soup yet

Grow Loose (Da Dork)
Joe's Report

By Mark Clark

Grow Loose, the newest release from Joe's Report, is about as aptly titled an album as you're likely to find.

It's 40 minutes of loose, jazzy improvisational-sounding rock. Vocalist/guitarist songwriter Joe Scheirich charts the band's course with his moody, dreamy compositions. But he and his two-man crew (bassist John Hulcher and drummer Luca Bianconcini) often stray off the map for extended solos.

Probably the most satisfying thing about Grow Loose is the trio's apparently instinctive interplay. It's as if each of the three can sense when one of the others has an idea, and backs off to give their bandmate operating room. Usually, it's Scheirich who steps forward for a solo. But it can be Hulcher, who's given plenty of space for a terrific bass line on "Sack of Corn," or occasionally Bianconcini. The drummer, for the most part, seems content to keep the band from wandering too far from Scheirich's melodies. This sort of chemistry is especially remarkable coming for the sterile environment of a recording studio. Joe's Report must cook live, when they can really cut loose.

The only major problem with Grow Loose is that the group doesn't cut loose more there.

Simply put, too many of the songs on the album sound too much like too many other songs on the album. There's a numbing sameness to "Cancer," "Sack of Corn" and "Submit," for example, that detracts from the fact that each of them, taken individually, are fine songs. It's as if Scheirich has only one idea of what a Joe's Report song should be like.

The album's best cuts are its last two, "Come to Me," and "Dying Away." "Come to Me" is a little faster than everything else on the album, "Dying Away" a little slower. The former song is a little funkier, the latter slightly more melodic. They're small chances, but taking them pushes those cuts apart from the previous ones.

"Dying Away," which is called a "bonus track," also benefits from some harmony vocals, which enliven Scheirich's occasionally droning vocals. No credits are listed, and the voice sounds like it could simply be Scheirich double-tracked. But the overlapping vocals definitely help.

Scheirich's flat delivery is easily the album's most monotonous feature. It's hard to tell if he can't hit the notes or (perhaps more likely) he is intentionally going for an almost deadpan sound. Sometimes the style works well — on "Cancer," for example. A more dramatic reading would make the song's chorus ("This life has not an answer/This life is like a cancer") sound overwrought. But too much of even a good thing can get boring.

Which is sort of the lesson of Grow Loose overall. These guys are good, no doubt about it. They just need to mix it up a little more.

Pre-Decoded Secret Message: Joe — Don't be afraid to take unpredictable steps. We'll follow you.