East Bay Express:
CMJ New Music Report:
Yeah Yeah Yeah:
The Chicago Tribune:
San Francisco Bay Guardian:
St. Louis Riverfront Times:
If you're already a fan of the Loud Family, you don't wait for reviews of the latest album -- you know it's going to be brilliant. As for the rest of you, it's time for an introduction. Named after the dysfunctional subject of a 1970s PBS documentary, the Loud Family is the creation of Scott Miller, former frontman for '80s college cult-band Game Theory. Grafting highly literate lyrics to post-Chilton pop, Miller led Game Theory through a handful of quirky but solid albums, peaking in 1987 with their semi-famous pop-assemblage masterwork, Lolita Nation. Miller formed the Louds in 1991 with a new lineup and a determination to turn up the volume.
Interbabe Concern, the band's third album, emerges as their most ambitious project to date. Assisted by the Posies' Ken Stringfellow and Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon, the album is a dazzling collage of pop weirdness, whip-smart wordplay and found-sound wizardry. Only Miller could rock furiously to a song called "Top Dollar Survivalist Hardware," or pen a sweet melody with a name like "Screwed Over by Stylish Introverts." There are 19 solid songs and curious ditties here, making the album much tighter and more cohesive than its esthetic predecessor, Lolita Nation.
The heartbreaking, three-minute ballad "Where They Go Back to School But Get Depressed" is in itself reason to buy the whole CD. For those who haven't yet met the Louds, Interbabe Concern ought to make you friends for life.
Sprawling and ambitious, the Loud Family's third full-length is damn near a masterpiece of beautiful pop. The album's only fault is that there's so much to take in; it's almost impossible to focus on all of its considerable charms. There's a pleasantly trippy-dippy vibe to the proceedings, especially on tracks like "Sodium Laureth Sulfate," which bounces from rocking to baroquely poppy and back again throughout, and the instrumentation runs from pseudo-classical piano to jagged synth riffs.
So many wonderful things pop up on Interbabe, only the sheer force of Miller's melodies keeps this psychedelic-pop party under control. "I'm Not Really a Spring" is a sweet, classic ditty, and right when it seems Miller can't top himself, along comes "Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique," which begins and ends with quiet, acoustic yearning, mixed with a nicely rocking middle section. Intentional or not, Miller one-ups himself at every turn.
The scope of Interbabe Concern, combined with its surface pomposity and '60s reverence, is bound to turn off a few simpletons, and the likelihood of it reaching the wider audience it deserves is doubtful. You'd be wise to not let that happen.
Fame and commercial success evidently matter little to Scott Miller, the brains behind Game Theory and their spiritual successors, the Loud Family. The LA [sic] group's third album is an even more dangerously playful take on the jangly West Coast pop blueprint, without compromise to FM programmers or even conventional song structure. Dreamy, hummable tunes do appear, but the silken-voiced Miller loves to shunt several into each track, cutting them short after what seems like seconds; only Throwing Muses play around with time signatures with more abandon. Interbabe Concern introduces a louder, aggressive edge, closer to the serrated tension of Miller's original inspiration, Big Star. No Longer Do I Fear The Headless [sic] even veers into punky grunge, while at the other extreme, Hot Rox Avec Lying Sweet Talk is an arty exercise in cocktail piano'n'chat. After several plays, the 19-track album makes a lot more sense, piecing together like a mosaic. Long may Miller's maverick spirit run. *** (out of five)
East Bay Express
East Bay Express
Scott Miller has been working in semi-obscurity for over ten years, but the San Francisco-based singer-songwriter has his fans. Aimee Mann dueted with Miller on his ballad "Inverness" at her last SF concert, and the two are "informally" collaborating on songs. Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon and the Posies' Ken Stringfellow assist Miller on IBC, his most consistently brilliant album since his work with '80s cult favorite Game Theory. (Stringfellow counts 1988's Lolita Nation as one of his favorite albums.) Miller continues to refine his already-flawless Chilton-Rundgren pop sound, adding his personal signature with intricate lyrics that border on fictive prose: "And will this be our second chance/Our secret, better lives?/Or just a freedom somewhat less unsupervised?" Miller's tongue-twisting song titles ("Screwed Over by Stylish Introverts," "Asleep and Awake on the Man's Freeway") seem to ensure commercial failure. But his admirers know that behind the quirks lie some of the most beautiful pop songs ever written.
For the third Loud Family effort, the band imitate the TV family from which they took their name by falling apart before your eyes. The recondite Scott Miller is still at the forefront, of course, but otherwise only keyboardist Paul Wieneke remains; Kenny Kessel (ex-Indian Bingo) now plays bass; Dawn Richardson is on drums.
The new group favor a program not unlike the one Miller's earlier band Game Theory followed for their mid-80's release The Big Shot Chronicles. Revisiting a more direct approach (but still not lacking in experimentation) and adopting a lo-fi production stance -- whose rawness is very different from the sleek smoothness of other Loud Family recordings -- the band strike out in both new and familiar territory.
From the softer moments of "Rise of the Chokehold Princess" and "Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique", permeated by Miller's soft tenor and ringing guitars, to the pop overload of the infectious of "I'm Not Really a Spring", which employs the familiar musical stylings of ex-Game Theory drummer Gil Ray and keyboardist Shelley LaFreneire, to the schlock-rock majesty of songs like "I No Longer the Headless", Interbabe Concern has a full-bodied flavor The Loud Family only hinted at before.
Miller's grasp of language remains firm, with pithy lyrics like "I didn't know how your kisses felt/Until I saw you kiss someone else" in "The Softest Tip of Her Baby Tongue". Heady titles like "Screwed Over by Stylish Introverts" and "Top Dollar Survivalist Hardware" should reassure even rigid optimists that none of these songs will by name-checked by Casey Kasem.
In his decade-and-a-half career as askew pop genius, Miller has now seen more band members than years in the business, so why pretend names or lineup changes mean that much? Interbabe Concern is still Miller through and through, stripped down and at his best in years.
CMJ New Music Report
CMJ New Music Report
Scott Miller has been lauded as a songwriter of the first order since the emergence of his last band, Game Theory, in the early 80's. In that band, his crisp melodies, artful lyrics and sweet vocals were sewn into multi-hued albums that always took unexpected turns, a tradition he carries on with his newer group, the Loud Family. Interbabe Concern, the Family's third album, has no shortage of cards from Miller's strongest suits: only someone with his creative ear could set the refrain "My girlfriend's got sodium laureth sulfate" to such an upbeat, catchy riff and turn it into the gloriously uplifting pop song that opens the album ("Sodium Laureth Sulfate"). Miller's vocals have also kept apace, still soaring when necessary and sounding coolly wise at appropriate moments; on "Don't Respond, She Can Tell," for example, his aching, yet restrained emotionalism recalling a fusion of Marshall Crenshaw and Elvis Costello's voices. While Interbabe Connection [sic] contains an overabundance of radio-friendly ear-pleasers -- try "rise of the Chokehold Princess," "Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique" or "Asleep and Awake on the Man's Freeway" -- the group's bright, punchy production makes it work as a tightly-knit, hour-long album too. Anther tradition Miller maintains is threading found sounds (a cough here, a Godzilla shriek there) through his recordings, making them an integral part of the album experience. In the liner notes, the band boasts, "Everything on this album is on purpose," a wink that anything this brilliant couldn't come by accident.
The first time I popped Interbabe Concern into my stereo system, it played perfectly fine. The second time, the CD player refused to read it. The third time, it played as if nothing had ever been wrong. It wouldn't be surprising if Loud Family patriarch Scott Miller intentionally had the CD manufactured so it would do exactly. The root of his music, as with his old band Game Theory, is the baroque pop invented and perfected in the mid-'60's, but Miller and band hardly play it straight. There's always some jarring detail added or subtracted, some unsettling minor component that takes these tunes out of the realm of the normal. Gently plucked acoustic guitars will suddenly be ripped apart by a mutinous fuzzbox, seemingly at random. Synth player Paul Wieneke seems to delight in dialing up the most abusive, sick, or annoying programs he can find. Song titles and lyrics alike have a thoroughly Beefheartian logic (sample song titles: "Sodium Laureth Sulfate," "The Softest Tip of Her Baby Tongue," "Rise Of the Chokehold Princess"). If pop's purpose is to soothe and delight, then this is either half-pop or fullblooded mutation/mutilation, as there's nothing soothing about this in the least. It's disturbing, but the sort of disturbance you'll be whistling at work.
Datalog: Release Date Aug 20
File Under: Pop of the most depraved variety.
Recommended if you Like: the Left Banke, Van Dyke Parks, Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett
Loud Family leader Scott Miller writes songs whose titles are often more creative than most people's entire albums. Browse through the song list on Interbabe Concern -- the third project he has released under the Loud Family name, though it's now more his show than ever -- and one finds such entries as "Screwed Over by Stylish Introverts," "Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique," "Rise of the Chokehold Princess," and "Hot Rox Avec Lying Sweet Talk." Those promise intrigue, smarts, passion, and surprise; the music delivers all that and more.
Miller used to front Game Theory, a sometimes inspired pop combo that had both a sweet side and and abstract side. With the Loud Family he has come into his own, writing material that's both wildly experimental and sublimely catchy; at his best, Miller shows how far the boundaries of guitar-based pop can be stretched. After 1994's The Tape of Only Linda, a misguided attempt to give his bandmates the spotlight, Interbabe Concern finds Miller completely in control. In fact, it's the hardest-edged thing he's ever done, with sudden mood-shifts within songs, flashes of lyricial bitterness, a harsher tone in both his vocals and guitar playing, and a string of achingly sad closing numbers. Don't let that scare you away, however: The album's icy surface melts a little more with each listen, revealing killer hooks and harmonies, tender balladry, and exhilarating garage-rock, even a cerebral joke or two (the chorus of "Sodium Laureth Sulfate," which doesn't occur until song's end, sounds like a surreal answer to Tommy James's "Hanky Panky").
Deep but not depressing, "Interbabe Concern" is the work of a wounded but hopeful heart. It's also a brilliant album.
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Yeah Yeah Yeah
It's pretty easy to bank on Scott Miller. He constantly makes fine records. Things punch with esoteric touches and out-of-left-field hooks. By now, most Miller devotees expect him to come from left field. For the uninitiated it is a tougher sword to swallow. In the end, whoever makes it through is rewarded. Miller's sense of style is so-well-achieved and connected with his own self that his art has an added strength. He's confident with his weirdness and he lets it go without flinching. That is what makes him a treasure.
The record opens touch with "Sodium Laureth Sulfate" and continues forward going through all the normal Miller pastures. He still loves Alex Chilton and Roxy Music, but it's no longer that obvious because it all mutates into his own vision. The song titles are stranger ("Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique") but the songs are as good as ever. Standouts are "Rise of the Chokehold Princess" and the stunning "Where They Walk Over Sainte Therese."
By the time one is finished listening to this record, it is easy to feel small. This is a big and vast collection of songs (20) which undoubtedly took oodles of time to spit out. It also boasts typical great Scott-lyrics which are sharp and sometimes stream of consciousness oriented. OK that's enough of my yacking. Just go ahead buy and jump head first and just go nuts and try to spot all the references and allow all the different hooks, curves and sounds to get inside your head. It's really fun.
The Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune
Like Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza, experimental-pop music sounds like a combo conceived in hell - at least until you try it. With his first band, Game Theory, and now with Loud Family, Scott Miller has brilliantly merged Beatles-worthy pop melodies with odd meters, tape effects and so on. Loud Family's dazzling new record, Interbabe Concern, merits a spot in the trophy case for its heady, charming, and totally rocking pop chamber works.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco Bay Guardian
* * * 1/2 (out of 5)
After Bay Area guitar-pop auteur Scott Miller's failed attempt at harder rock, The Tape of Only Linda, fell on deaf (read: no) ears last year, the perennially underheard musician went on to concoct his fussiest collection since prior outfit Game Theory's '87 Lolita Nation -- and longtime producer Mitch Easter isn't even a part of the package. As usual, neurotically funny lyrics fly by faster than you can catch. Despite "home recording," the sound is crystalline, Miller's penchant for arty conceptual experimentation rules the surface of this record, and his instinct for pure pop pleasure hovers just below.
Singer-songwriter Scott Miller's 80's rock group Game Theory started as a sort of Big Star tribute band and became, in the hothouse of college radio, a much better proudly less accessible R.E.M. Since 1991, it has been called the Loud Family.
Miller's superlative songwriting style hasn't changed one iota: swooping melodies, large vocabulary lyrics dense with idiom and metaphor, titles such as "Not Expecting Both Contempo and Classique" and gloriously catchy hooks with lyrics like "My girlfriend's got sodium laureth sulf/ Sodium laureth sulfate." His music has never been wildly popular, even in Japan. On Interbabe Concern, almost every song begins with a little unstructured noodling ranging from Hendrix imitations to party noise, which means the songs don't actually start. It's usually hard to hear the words. Like all of Miller's other records, Interbabe Concern could be aptly titled Shooting Myself in the Foot.
Game Theory's classic records were produced by Mitch Easter with no low end, a tradition upheld here, and the drums still sound like the dinky electronic Simmons drums with which GT began, so however hard the rock gets, it's still tinny and kind of cute. But the band is at its best at its most simple, such as on the wonderful "Rise of the Chokehold Princess" (an anthemic ballad on par with Game Theory's "Like a Girl Jesus") in which a creamy female vocal sample ornaments lovely acoustic guitar strumming and quiet crooning, or on "Asleep and Awake on the Man's Freeway" in which guitar and voice are accompanied by delightfully inappropriate Godzilla sounds.
Near the end of the entertaining-in-their-own-right liner notes is the statement "Everything on this album is on purpose." That doesn't necessarily preclude happy accidents, but if it means that everything was planned, then Scott Miller is a true genius. Interbabe Concern, the third Loud Family opus, sounds much more spontaneous than either their previous records or any of the Game Theory stuff. It's much less polished and much more inspired. And it's full of guitars, loud, dirty, nasty ones: perfection. Many of the cuts run directly from one into the next, and many of the songs contain two or even three barbed hooks. It makes the whole thing like some surreal dream. Or maybe it's Guided By Voices without the 25% crap, shitty recording and fear of success. Robert Pollard dreams of making a record this extraordinary. Part of the raw, first-take freshness probably comes from the fact that the majority of it was recorded at home on an ADAT, making inspiration that much easier to capture.
Scattered throughout the CD, by no means buried, are tons of gorgeous and infectious pop hooks. Entire careers have been based on flimsier collections of musical ideas. But what makes it truly magical is the way that the melodies are matched up with little wonky and dissonant bits. Sometimes they float in, and at others they crash through like some alternate universe in those cheesy sci-fi movies. "Don't Respond, She Can Tell" features not only one of Scott's best melodies, but also a "Raspberry Beret" style cough in the intro and the intermittent sounds of dropping marbles. "The Softest Tip Of Her Baby Tongue" has a lush, acoustic melody which contrast with bits of distorto skronk that burst in like a shorted mic cord. On the other hand, "Top Dollar Survivalist Hardware" has a huge anthemic stomp and "Asleep And Awake On The Man's Freeway" seems to be Scott's bid for guitar hero status; gargantuan chords echoing everywhere.
Maybe the biggest change is in the vocals. They still have a fair amount of feyness to them but are generally much rawer and more emotional, cathartic even. There's a magnificent scream in "I No Longer Fear The Headless." Scott is still sharing the song writing, only 6 of the 19 tracks are solo Miller compositions, but generally it seems to be a return to the Scott Miller Experience of previous records.
I characterized the first Loud Family CD as being Impressionistic, and the second as being Cubist, both containing a large dose of surrealism. The surrealism is still here -- lyrics include images like "quadraphonic gin and tonic" and "flesh colored audio gear" -- but with this one he's definitely moving into his Deconstructionist period.
It's a truly brilliant record.
Addicted To Noise
Addicted To Noise
While it never got the press Double Nickels On A Dime or Zen Arcade did, Game Theory's Lolita Nation holds its own against the more well known double-albums of the '80s. It was the crowning achievement in the career of a band that began by winning CMJ's "best unsigned band" subscriber's poll in 1984 and went on to release four albums of sophisticated stream-of-consciousness power pop, enjoying fruitful collaborations with the Three O'Clock's Michael Quercio and ace producer Mitch Easter. Leader Scott Miller wore his young-adult hurt on his sleeve by mixing Alex Chilton hooks with James Joyce steam-of-consciousness, and the result earned Game Theory a devoted college radio following. The dependence on pop-culture references and off-kilter structures (songs would often splinter halfway through an album, only to materialize as a harmony riff or chorus phrase later on) demanded a rather concentrated and academic listening experience, however, and their following never really surpassed the college radio community. Game Theory disbanded in 1990, and Miller continued in 1991 with a new, more-aggressive outfit, The Loud Family.
After two rather difficult albums, The Loud Family finally make good on their potential with their new album, Interbabe Concern, which is due out this Tuesday, Aug. 13. Miller's writing is catchier and more emotional than anything else he's done, yet given song titles like "Sodium Laureth Sulfate" (check your shampoo ingredients) and "I No Longer Fear The Headless," as well as a fascination for pseudo-scientific terms and phrases (he rhymes "rate equation" with "beta radiation" at one point) the listening might be easy but never simple. Produced and mixed by Miller at his home, it features appearances by members of Veruca Salt and the Posies. Compared to earlier work, the guitars have less jangle and more buzz, with an emphasis on weird rhythms and riffs instead of weird sounds. More than ever, Miller's soundbite ruminations on love and life perk out of the tracks with remarkable insight, making Interbabe Concern rewarding on all sorts of levels, but particularly to those adventurous listeners who make the effort to keep up with Miller's geek-rock wordplay and melodic moves. Given that radio playlists have opened up a ever-so-slightly since Game Theory's heyday, we can only hope that this refreshing return to form is heard by a larger audience.
St. Louis Riverfront Times
St. Louis Riverfront Times
Scott Miller of the Loud Family is the most underrated pop genius in music history. Artists like Paul Westerberg, Robyn Hitchcock (where is he now?), Marshall Crenshaw, and Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard have won a modicum of cult worship. Miller keeps plowing away, making brilliant, challenging albums--but he hasn't been able to raise enough fans to keep up with the rate of inflation. Over the course of 15 years, in various bands like Alternate Learning and Game Theory, he's recorded a dozen or so albums and EPs, all unique and excellent beyond description.
Miller's been accused of sounding too much like Alex Chilton, Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey, but he was always weirder than Chilton, forsaking his blues/soul roots for the cool detachment of the avant-garde. However, where Bowie and Roxy Music used emotional iciness as an artistic device, Miller melted it with a vulnerable warmth. And it's worth noting that he wasn't even exposed to his alleged influences until long after he started writing songs, emerging with a musical vision at around driving age. Miller's early music, prodigy-type stuff to be sure, consisted of boyishly sung pop songs with quirky, with quirky inside-out-sounding melodies. Over the course of Game Theory's existence, his music got stranger--kind of like a friend going off the deep end--and he always played as many word games as melody games, entangling them like mixed feelings.
Interbabe Concern, the Loud Family's third album, is self-produced (ever since 1984's Real Nighttime, Miller has hob-"knobbed" with Easter). Instead of trying to counterbalance the raw, unihibited production (there is some audible, even flaunted, coughing and such) with smoother songs, the album takes the rough, long road to your eardrums. Bouncy though it is, 19 track Interbabe Concern is Miller's most challenging work, sonically and psychically. Some of the best song titles -- "Don't Respond, She Can Tell," "Screwed over By Stylish Introverts," "I No Longer Fear the Headless," "Such Little Nonbelievers," and "Top Dollar Survivalist Hardware" -- are symbolic of his allusive, highly personal disfiguring of classic pop structures.
Obviously, some of the songs are obsessed with the sexual chess game of modern relationships -- an apt metaphor considering Miller's intellectual, puzzlelike approach to composition. The opener, "Sodium Laureth Sulfate," shows his propensity for turbulent, episodic songs--it blasts in like a science project gone awry, spewing shards of dissonance in all musical directions. Suddenly, it resolves into a dainty verse, then works into a chorus--a bizarre but catchy one. Miller's lyrics often concern the mundane, making acidic imagery of things we take for granted (e.g. "bank parking lots"). Some of his words express insecurity, cynicism and self-deprecation. On "I'm Not Really a Spring," Miller sings, "I won't go knocking on doors to see how many tickets to me I can sell."
On Interbabe Concern, the time signatures are unreadable, the sudden screeches of guitar noise jarring. But Miller will constantly please you by easing into hooks that have the immediacy of, say, "Video Killed the Radio Star" or "Turning Japanese." Guests on the album include Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt (whose members are avowed Miller disciples) and the Posies' Ken Stringfellow.
Scott Miller assembles pop masterpieces casually, as if he were a factory worker putting in another day on the job. Support his cause, because if he goes on strike, I can't think of anyone who could replace him.