SAN FRANCISCO -- Only one album into his band's career and
Danger guitarist Jeff Linn seems tired already of the publicity and promo
"You find yourself waking up at 6:45 every morning because a radio station
wants you to go play your song acoustic," the 26-year-old Linn said recently
over a Coke in San Francisco. "So you have to get up and there's always
label people herding you to the van and then they herd you into the studio
and you sit around and the DJs crack really dumb jokes and then they say,
'Oh great, why don't you play some songs for us,' and then we play and then
they herd us back out and we go to the hotel and sleep."
Still, with their debut album, Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?,
just out and their power-pop single,
Sitta"(RealAudio excerpt), sitting pretty on modern-rock radio,
Harvey Danger are off to a strong start
-- to say the least. Now if the Seattle-based foursome could only get used
to all that goes with having a hit record.
Linn's bandmates -- vocalist/keyboardist Sean Nelson, 24; drummer Evan Sult,
24; and bassist Aaron Huffman, 25 -- seemed equally disenchanted with what
goes into selling a hit record these days.
The tune driving all this herding, "Flagpole Sitta," jumps out at the
listener with its sing-song vocal lines, harmonies, droning chords and drum
solo intro, all of which have been stirred together into a natural, poppy
"I think it's essentially noisy pop-rock," Nelson said. "I think the
music is deceptively simple with little subtle touches of instrumental and
lyrical complexity. We definitely work within the language of pop music,
but we're never satisfied with a formula pop song. It always has to be
tweaked and manipulated in some way so it's unique and also classic."
On the single, Nelson sits more on a lyrical fence than any flagpole with
the murky declaration "I'm not sick/ but I'm not well." The same could be
said of the rest of Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?.
The remaining nine tunes stray from "Flagpole"'s simple pop sound to approach
something that deviates sonically while maintaining the pop esthetics.
Songs such as
Muffler"(RealAudio excerpt) and "Problems And Bigger
Ones" find Nelson experimenting with abstract lyrics in the vein of
pioneering pop artists such as Pavement's Stephen Malkmus.
It is a lyrical approach where skillful treatment can add up to genius but
where a lesser rendering can reach into the debit-column of confusion. With
lyrics such as "Hands can grow together/ if you're not careful and grateful
or whatever" from "Wooly Muffler," Nelson toys with words and sounds in a
playful, childlike way. The same abstract pop feel dominates most of the
album's 10 tracks.
For a group that got together five years ago with nothing loftier in
mind than playing Nirvana covers at parties, the attention being generated
by "Flagpole Sitta" is enough of a nice surprise. The song might not propel
them to lasting stardom, but, for right now, the group is doing its best to
keep on the daily promotion grind and see where it takes them.
"We're not able to complain about it because it's like all these people
like the song you wrote," Nelson said. "Even if you don't feel like it's
the best thing you've ever done. I think if we all had to choose a song to
be remembered by, I doubt it would be 'Flagpole Sitta.' At this point, it
could be that way, and that's OK."