CD Review of Shower the People You Love with Gold by Western Civ
Western Civ: Shower the People You Love with Gold
Recommended if you like
R.E.M., Let’s Active, Pavement
Western Civ:
Shower the People You
Love with Gold

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

espite their relative obscurity and young career, there are two elements that bring Western Civ instant credibility. For one, they hail from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home to some of the Right Coast’s most proficient indie pop of the past 20 years, including such esteemed outfits as Flat Duo Jets, Superchunk, Corrosion of Conformity and Archers of Loaf. For another, they’re produced by Mitch Easter, whose own list of clients and credentials could encompass a veritable who’s who of alt-rock icons – thanks to a résumé that includes production chores for the early R.E.M. and ranking membership in his own band Let’s Active, not to mention active associations with the likes of Pavement, Velvet Crush, the Windbreakers, Tim Lee, Game Theory and Chris Stamey, among many others .

With that kind of cred, big things ought to be expected at the outset, and for the most part, Western Civ doesn’t disappoint. The band – singer/guitarist Rich Henderson, bassist Jason Briggs, and drummer Bryan Cabler – takes an arch indie stance, one that’s both effortlessly accessible and still possessed of pop smarts and a casual cool that makes repeated listens all but mandatory. And while their third effort – following an initial EP, the odd and ambiguously titled Regent Kingfish Slumberpad, and a follow-up LP, Remington Steel Magnolia – may not be the one that brings them instant acclaim, it does spotlight a band with a confident, concise sound and the wherewithal to expand their following beyond their home environs. Theirs is a mixture of emphatic straight-ahead rhythms and buoyant melodies that ricochet between earnest engagement and cheery enticement. The best of these songs – "Paper Hornet Parade," "I am a Waterfall," and "Tuesday" – demonstrate a pop-perfect sensibility and a concise yet articulate freewheeling spirit that gets the groove going at the outset. It’s not heady stuff, to be sure, but for those looking for an immediate handle, they provide some instant enticement.

At other times, the trio seems to have less clarity. Some songs rely too much on propulsion -- "Capitol Steps," "American Pines" and "Paper Hornet Parade" among them – and it’s there that Western Civ loses its connection. Still, those are only momentary lapses. For the most part, the group lives up to the generous spirit of the album’s title, and if the love or the gold aren’t always evident, there’s still enough of a good vibe to keep the shower flowing.

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