One Hundred Questions
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2001, Volume 8, #5
Written by T.J. Simon
As the story goes, Dave Schramm formed a band called The Walking Wounded in 1987, shortly after he departed Yo La Tengo. Mere days before a scheduled gig in Los Angeles, however, he learned that another L.A. band was already utilizing the name, and after a last minute scramble for a new moniker, The Schramms was born.
Dave Schramm is a little-known, but quite accomplished musician. In addition to his early work with Yo La Tengo, the guitarist has appeared on albums by Soul Asylum, Freedy Johnston, Richard Buckner, and The Replacements. Each of these in turn has had an influence on Schramm and can be heard creeping under the surface of many of the tracks on The Schrammsí latest release One Hundred Questions.
Indeed, the sound of One Hundred Questions is an unapologetic amalgam of Schrammís previous collaborations. The opening track 300 Answers could very well be a long-lost song from The Velvet Underground, a band that had a great influence over Yo La Tengoís entire body of work. Likewise, Mailbox comes off as a Freedy Johnston ballad ó albeit one that wisely would have been left off an earlier effort.
While no one will ever refer to Schramm as a great singer, to his credit, he does at least know his limitations. Consequently, he crafts songs that work within his own vocal range, and at times, he sounds like a blend of Mick Jagger, Matthew Sweet, and former Jayhawk Mark Olson. In addition, Schrammís guitar playing is solid without being showy. Instead, he allows keyboardist Andrew Harris Burton to steal the show with his Hammond organ foundation, particularly on one of the albumís best tracks Torn in Two.
One Hundred Questions is most definitely not a CD that immediately reaches out and grabs the listenerís attention. Although it has many characteristics of a pop album, the songs are virtually hook-free. It does take some work to find the heart of the disc, and with repeated listens, it does become a little easier to warm up to them. Nevertheless, Schramm is asking too much of his fans, making it mighty difficult for him to expand his audience. Would it really kill him to introduce some catchier elements into his already solid songs? This is what separates The Schramms from its influences. Schrammís heroes clearly know the value of a hook, but Schramm seems to have little inclination to take this route himself. For this reason, One Hundred Questions is a fine effort that ó for the extremely patient ó is worth hearing, but it is far from being a classic work of art.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box