The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Record Review

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, November 23, 2001, Music


Distance and Clime (Idol)

One of the best bands in the state puts out its best album yet. Many folks around here aren't aware of Centro-matic, simply because they're from the maligned Dallas music scene (actually they're from Denton). But don't forget, that's the scene that spawned Bedhead, and Centro-matic are stirring many of the same indie straws with a suitcase of songs good enough to match anyone, anywhere, anytime. Frontman Will Johnson writes instantly engaging songs that are shamelessly anthemic, filled with booming choruses and vocal harmonies. Yet he's also blessed with a sincere, gravelly voice, and a penchant for writing oblique lyrics like, "The arrows point to cities and show us all credentials; we know the connection's not so civilized" that are so possessed by song and melody that they only add impact to already-potent cuts. Like Guided by Voices' Bob Pollard, another indie tunesmith who writes unusual lyrics, Johnson utilizes fuzzy distortion in a way that sounds so direct and true you can only call it lo-fi for lack of a better description. Johnson's talented band is versatile enough to allow for piano-driven rockers like "To Unleash the Horses Now" and the acoustic, harmonic "Tundra (Part Seven)," while still delivering a Twisted Sister-style cock-rock beat on the superlative "Truth Flies Out." Distance and Clime is full of energy and fun, yet Johnson's songs lose little of the emotional impact delivered on last year's spare beauty South San Gabriel Songs/Music. Fifteen songs, zero clunkers, one fine record.


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