Frustrating, would've been a great EP,
This review is from: Pacer (Audio CD)
The Amps were Kim Deal's short-lived project she formed a year after the release of The Breeders' successful Last Splash. Together with Breeders-drummer Jim MacPherson and two members from a band called The Tasties (which I've never heard), she made her least ambitious album to date. The amazingly melodic homemade pop from Pod is gone, as is the slick alternative pop of Last Splash or the freak-rock of the Pixies. Pacer is much more ragged and un-aspiring than any of those bands' albums, which doesn't imply it can't be fun. In the previous 8 years, Deal had proven she was capable of writing awesome songs, and on this album, all songs are Deal-compositions, except for one, which she co-wrote with Robert Pollard, front-man of Guided By Voices. The influence of Pollard/GBV is quite noticeable on the album: most of the songs are short and sound scruffy, under-developed, and lo-fi.
Basically (for convenience's sake), the album's songs can be divided into three categories: raw garage-punk rave-ups, rough pop songs, and plain sloppy stuff. In the first category belong "Tipp City," a noisy rocker with howled vocals; "Full on Idle," a ramshackle track that starts off with a quiet guitar that suddenly transforms itself into a nonsensical fun track; and "Empty Glasses," which does sound drunk. None of these songs has the out of step-freakiness or quality of the earlier Pixies-stuff, but the sound (certainly the drums) is somewhat similar to that of Surfer Rosa. The album's highlight is the Deal/Pollard-collaboration "I Am Decided," that benefits from those jangly guitars and a great sing-along chorus that matches Pod's best tracks. Other successful pop songs are the two last songs: the decent "She's a Girl" and the gentle schizo-pop of "Dedicated," which hides a gorgeous melody beneath the superficial roughness. The rest (half) of the album consists of very sloppy songs, many of which sound as if they were invented during the recording sessions, and while the simple, lengthy and dreamy "Bragging Party" is the album's second good track, the equally droning "First Revival" sounds too much of a rehash of that song. "Pacer," the album's opener has a nice melody, but remains somewhat unsubstantial. Finally, there are remaining disappointing songs: the false and uninspired "Mom's Drunk" (we're lucky it's only 1:41 long), the annoyingly repetitive "Hoverin" and the similar "Breaking the Split Screen Barrier" that `starts' after one and a half minute, has echo coming and going and inspiration never appearing.
Clearly a project that allowed Deal to focus less on elaborate song-writing than on joyfully rocking out, Pacer nevertheless remains a bit of a frustrating album that would have made a good 8 song-EP. Why it was heralded by several trend-setting magazines as a minor 90's masterpiece remains a mystery to me, but maybe this is precisely what you are looking for.