THE OOHLAS: BEST STOP POP

By Shain Shapiro

Everclear was one of my teenage guilty obsessions. There, I said it. Once in a while I still blare "Santa Monica" or "Father of Mine" from my stereo, remembering the days when all I had to worry about was acne and making sure my Phish mail order request was immaculately prepared. Yet Everclear suffered extensively from what I dubbed in my formidable years as "The Everclear Syndrome," where one song was recycled several times on the same album and passed off as another song. Listen to the two aforementioned tracks, and you will realize they are exactly the same. Same goes for "Wonderful" and that slap-happy reputation killer, "Am Radio" - just one song, recycled, over and over. Apparently Everclear just released a new album, and I can only hypothesize what it will sound like. But I digress, as this review is not about Everclear but about fellow Los Angeles folk The Oohlas, a trio started up by Everclear's former drummer Greg Eklund. The Oohlas sound nothing like Everclear. Contextually, however, they do share some similarities. I think you know where I am headed with this. I have done it before.

Eklund, along with his brother Mark and lovely, purple-haired chanteuse Ollie (short for Olivia) Stone, round out The Oohlas. Abandoning the collegiate rock for more shoe-hazy, ethereal territory, The Oohlas debut, Best Stop Pop, is a chord-heavy expose into reverb, distortion, and haze, but in a more playful, radio-friendly way. Save the comparisons to Shoegaze Everything and Mogwai for a moment, because Best Stop Pop sounds like a more muddled, coagulated pop cousin of Metric or older stalwarts Veruca Salt. Yet while the former buttressed their ambitions with strong songwriting – a trait that had temporal limitations on Veruca Salt – The Oohlas fiddling foray into pop is not built on formidable song structures, ultimately steering the whole carriage towards an Everclear-muddled context where all the songs end up coalescing into one, for better or worse.

Ollie Stone has a beautiful voice, and apart from the few songs that Eklund regrettably sings, each song is bubbly enough for radio, but the bubblegum flavor is short-lived as the collection rolls along. Opener "Gone" is great, at one point a sure example of things to come, but by leading single "TV Dinner" and onwards through "From Me To You" and "Octopus," the formula reaches a catharsis, where Stone's lovingly sensual drone begins to sink under the weight of sameness. Everclear wrote a catchy song or two and then used discreet chameleonic methods to turn one-or-two into seven-or-eight. The Oohlas, while once again completely different musically from their brethren, seem to fall into the same trap. Best Stop Pop has one-or-two shimmering moments of pop bliss embedded within, but the recycling becomes apparent after the whole album is digested. The pop is there, but the thematic stop sign is never altered. That is not to say this cannot garner heaps of acclaim as Everclear once did, but Best Stop Pop would have functioned much more successfully as a five-track EP than a full-length. Either that or back to the drawing board.

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[Published on: 10/10/06]

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