Some three years since Pete Yorn released his decidedly lo-fi self-titled album – his fifth, but first time working with Frank Black as producer – he seems to have found a kindred spirit in fellow songwriter J.D. King. The pair initially met through mutual friends a few years back when King began dating Johnny’s Ramone’s widow, Linda. Although much less is known about King than Yorn, (he has only one self-released disc to his credit), he comes across like a curious trove of eccentricities with his mid-century digs and enthusiasm for old gear, odd instruments and 78 RPM vinyl – all the more funky since he’s not yet 30 years old.
But it’s over a mutual love of pop sounds originally harvested during the (first) British Invasion that the two have bonded for this musical endeavor. Mind you, The Olms isn’t startling or daring, but it succeeds more often than not with a breezy simplicity, reminding us of a pre-Prozac world when love was super-obsessive and ‘getting the girl’ was really all that mattered. A desire to break through our anti-depressive cultural numbness is actually the impetus for the catchy single, “Wanna Feel It,” which ends so abruptly you’ll jerk your head to make sure the power didn’t cut out.
Goofy opener “On the Line,” finds King channeling Ringo amid cowbell, shakers and organ while Yorn supplies a jangly guitar line and backing vocals. At barely three minutes, it’s an effective teaser for Yorn’s lead on “Someone Else’s Girl,” a pleasing mid-tempo AM-radio jaunt that brings Matthew Sweet to mind and even boasts a happy ending, (albeit tempered with a weird, anti-climactic melancholy). “Twice as Nice” pays homage to any number of pop vocal groups, which also reveals one of the projects biggest flaws: it’s terribly derivative.
Still, Yorn and King pay tribute pretty damn well, making musical decoupage of riffs loosely borrowed from The Byrds, The Zombies, Dave Clark Five and The Kinks to spot a few, recording to tape and throwing in an occasional tuba or Snoopy harp for fun. And fun it definitely is – even when King croons about a murder-suicide with eerie, matter-of-fact detachment on “She Said No.” The duo also wins when it comes to production value – if you were none-the-wiser, this could pass for something recorded forty-five years ago.
As consumers of music, we’ve gotten spoiled with back-stories – always looking for a concept, a bigger picture… something more, a reason why. Perhaps the greatest strength holding The Olms debut together is it’s total lack of pretense: it is what it is… just because. And on that level, it works just fine.