There's a great opening scene in Robert Altman's classic film The Player in which would-be movie directors and screenwriters pitch their films to the producer with ridiculous lines like, "It's a cross between Psycho and Tootsie." Often I feel like the bloated jam band scene does the same with the glut of hybrid-genre groups that pop up on a daily basis. But there is a fine line between sounding like a cross between Phish and Wayne Krantz and sounding like a cross between two bands that are trying to sound like those bands. Many bands tread this line very precariously. Which brings us to Cerulean City, one of several post-Anastasio guitar trios I've heard in the past couple years that bring to mind what Aquarium Rescue Unit might have sounded like if they had never run into Col. Bruce Hampton.

Having never seen them live (but having been urged in the "if you like ______, you'll dig 'em" sense), I listened to their new release Trio Grande with open ears. The music is a so-so take on that instrumental guitar-bass-drums jazz-rock stuff that could be found in a club in probably every other American metropolis. It would be foolish of me to dismiss Cerulean City out of hand--the playing is quality, there is a real sense of chemistry there, this is a band I'd really like to check out live and I'll do my best to make that a reality. But putting the music on record seems to deflate what energy or enthusiasm it might bring to a lovingly dank room. Albums can serve many purposes and for Cerulean City, Trio Grande is a snapshot of what they are not, not what they are--young and potentially awe-inspiring. This music needs to live and breathe and grow and mature before committing it to 1s and 0s; given the right environment I believe it can flourish.

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New Jersey
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[Published on: 4/24/04]

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