Don't Take Library Nation To The Check-Out Desk

Debut album marred by busybody producer's wannabe vocals.

Library Nation ought to have been a solid, fun, indie hip-hop

album. Instead, the Evil Tambourines' debut is a mess, full of

groove-killing flourishes and dull avant additions.

The duo — rapper Tobias Flowers and instrumentalist Andy Poehlman

— do fine on their own. Though not exactly groundbreaking,

they're more than just workmanlike, college-radio hip-hop. Album

opener "13,000 Times Bigger Than the Earth" has a great

four-on-the-floor thump and speedy raps atop Ummah-esque chiming

keyboards. It kick starts the record and is nicely set-off by

"My Dream Girl Puts On Her Shoes" (RealAudio excerpt), a relaxed, graceful tune that

slides into a long instrumental break peppered by trumpets and sitar.

Thereafter, though, things fall apart.

Producer Al Larsen (of Some Velvet Sidewalk) starts poking his head

into things. By the end of the record, he's provided more lead vocals

than Flowers — pumping his slacker whine into nearly half the

tracks, sounding like a discount Beck, sans flow. Poehlman tries

gamely to keep things moving, but he's sabotaged by weird breaks and

Larsen's wobbly sing-rapping.

Maybe the duo didn't mind, but it sounds as if they were co-opted by

an overzealous producer. "And We Get High and We Elope" has a great

chugging groove, but Larsen's voiceover hurls it off track. Ditto

"Library Nation" (RealAudio excerpt) and "On Mars and Venus."

It's baffling, more than anything else. Why — with Flowers' good,

if not awe-inspiring lyrical skills — did the band let Larsen

warble all over the record?

Luckily they close the LP — before a dull "bonus" track, that

is — with "Rollerskate!" (RealAudio excerpt), a track that would have been completely

at home on, say, the DC Cab soundtrack. Featuring drumming by

Built to Spill's Scott Plouf and the Hi Fi Killers' John Horn on bass

and guitar, the good-time vibe very nearly redeems the rest of the

record's missteps. It's nostalgic without being sentimental, a

worthy addition to jukeboxes everywhere.

Pity that flavor couldn't have been the rule rather than the

exception on Library Nation. Perhaps the Evil Tambourines will

break away for their next effort and make the hip-hop record their

debut ought to have been.