5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.
“More incredible than bologna sandwiches.” I know it’s not proper English, but it’s a direct quote from my friend Matt on how he feels about Doug Martsch’s solo album, Now You Know.
Personally, I find it to be quite boring and, dare I say, a bit self-indulgent. As you crazy kids out there may already know, Diggy Doug Martsch has been recording music for eons from his hometown of Boise, Idaho. First in the mediocre rock band the Treepeople, then his genius indie rock supergroup the Halo Benders, with Calvin Johnson, Wayne Flower, Steve Fisk, and Portland’s most under appreciated musician, Ralf Youtz, and then later in his major-label rocking trio Built to Spill.
While Built to Spill opts for the biggest, overproduced sound of any rock band in the world, Def Leppard included, Martsch’s solo CD is a home-recorded effort consisting of just the bearded wonder and his acoustic guitar. When I first heard of this, I was quite excited, but what I heard confused me.
Has Doug Martsch gone blues? Not that cheesy waterfront blues that makes the post-40 set get into their Hawaiian shirt ensembles, complete with shorts, sandals, white socks and a pricey lawn chair for good sittin’. No, this kind of blues doesn’t inspire hippy dancing or remind you of the smell of Elephant Ears and Coors Light. No, it’s that down-home, Granny-get-my-shotgun-so-we-can-sit-on-the-porch-and-feel-safe kind of blues.
Heck, take it from Martsch himself. “I tried to emulate Fred McDowell’s style,” he said. McDowell is an old blues guy who pretty much inspired Martsch throughout this whole album. Martsch even covered one of the McDowell’s songs.
Either way, the CD is great as a stand-alone piece of work, but it’s not the sensitive break-up album that you’ve been waiting for since 1994’s “There’s Nothing Wrong with Love.” That’s really all I have to say about that.
As far as the show goes, who knows? All I know is that it’s billed as a solo show and that it will most likely be awesome. While I’m sure he’ll play a lot of new songs, there’s not enough for an entire set. Judging from Martsch’s past solo shows, he’ll probably play an assortment of material spanning his entire career. In all honesty, his new material off of Now You Know sounds much more live-oriented, and it will be exciting to see Martsch take it to the old school (of blues that is) live in the flesh.
All this reporter has is one request: If in fact Dougie Martsch decides to play an old fan favorite like “Twin Falls” or “Car,” please, please, please don’t be that guy standing behind me singing along at the top of your lungs. It’s really uncomfortable and awkward and no one is impressed that you know all the words. Instead, listen to what the man has to offer because you might not know what you’re missing with all that awkward singing-along mumbo jumbo. If that’s what you’re looking for, this fair city of ours offers a wonderful waterfront blues scene.