The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Texas platters

Reviewed by Greg Beets, August 6, 2004, Music

Steve Arceri

Eyes Like Poisoned Birds (Distress Signal)

Recorded at home on a four-track, Steve Arceri's second album resonates with the trebly hiss of local DIY cassettes in the mid-to-late Eighties. While the lack of a low-end is jarring at first, this Austinite squeezes intimacy and charm out of his antiquated approach, creating a pastiche that complements the ambient noise of urban, open-window life. There's a faint, ever-present punk pedigree here, but these are folk songs at heart. Arceri's lyrics are dense with wordplay, occasionally evoking the sardonic, politicized tack of Ted Leo. Coming to terms with mortality, both literal and spiritual, is a near-constant theme on Eyes Like Poisoned Birds. This is especially evident on "Dark Powers Are Listening," a swinging wake-up call to those sleepwalking through the culture of death. "Tawdry Flag" likens blind patriotism to empty sex with lines like, "I'll never be drowned on your convalescence couch/She'd fatten me up for your undulating mouth." Arceri's brightly textured acoustic guitar drives the mix, but he also acts as his own backing band by providing pop-flavored accompaniment. While solipsism is an inevitable byproduct of such an undertaking, Arceri is comfortable enough with his voice to avoid getting sucked into freewheeling neurosis. For someone alone in a room with a tape recorder, this is a formidable feat.


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