Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reviews:: Cam Malcolm A Little Bit of History


After putting together The Inbreds reunion show and getting to revisit the sounds that drove my listening habits a decade ago, I have to admit I’m soaking in every DIY, lo-fi guitar record I can find. I’ve never really been one for lush arrangements that pile layer on top of layer, especially when they are stacked up against the emotion of a simple, raw riff that grabs your ear without studio magic or epic builds.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, “thank you, Cam Malcolm.”

Cam’s debut EP – A Little Bit of History – might not seem like much on the surface. It’s a mere six songs, mostly recorded live or at impromptu, fast moving studio sessions, but A Little Bit of History is the type of springboard that most artists never manage to pull off. You see, you can either go one of two ways. Most people put out an EP that has been meticulously crafted and over-thought, and then don’t have the catalog to follow it up. Others – especially lately – hastily put together an EP and then once it gets some attention, rework the songs and take all the energy and spontaneity out of the effort.

But Malcolm seems happy to cobble together his sketches and move on. The six songs that make up the EP are a representation of where Cam was at musically and personally. In six months, he might have moved onto another style, but it won't affect the sincerity of the efforts. You see, Cam's songs act as thoughts, instead of complete stories and as a they result crackle with a static that pulses through every note. Whether it’s a crunchy, acoustic garage riff (The Thing About Us), a touching steel laced ballad (Henry David, Young Thoreau), or a spacey, slow burner like Empire Corners, Malcolm lets his songs breath.

Ideas are exposed but never fleshed out to the point that they become unrecognizable. Basement Rock is a catchy acoustic riff with a few well placed hand claps and maraca shakes, but as Cam sings with (and about) the freedom of youth, the rawness of the track is what makes the sing-along ready ditty. When he explodes into a solo, it feels like a natural extension of the song - one of those decisions we all made without too much thought - instead of a formulaic process.

As we get older, it’s becomes easier and easier to forget nights we spent with friends just listening to the music or reading the books that shape who we become. I know A Little Bit of History is "just" an EP, but it’s a terrific glimpse into what makes Cam who he is. And as you let the songs repeat, singing along without even noticing, it also makes you wonder if A Little Bit of History might just be the brief introduction to Malcolm’s long career.

Cam Malcolm & The Owls (his backing band- natch) will be hitting Gus’ Pub on November 14th with Smothered In Hugs.

Posted at 8:15 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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