Published May 22, 2019Mike Donovan's third solo album, Exurbian Quonset, presents the former Sic Alps frontman's usual blend of lo-fi garage punk, with equal hints of brilliant and self-indulgence.
There are moments of pure inspiration and surprising emotion, to be sure. Opener "Digital Dan" has a jangly riff you can sink your teeth into, awash in feedback and distorted muffled screams. The piano, acoustic guitar, mellotron-like strings and plaintive vocals on "B.O.C. Rate Applied" help give it a kind of Elliott Smith goes Syd Barrett vibe. With all of its atmospheric birdsong and mellow guitar picking, "Stone" benefits from restraint, sounding like Donovan recorded it by the last pond on Earth before the end of time.
But, of course, there are moments of WTF. "Wot Do Rich People Do All Day?" sounds like a purposefully lost George Martin tape experiment from the White Album sessions. "Hate Mail Writer" is a bizarre organ dirge, with incomprehensible lyrics that sonically blend into the guitar distortion, to the point it's hard to tell which is which, while "Zone Dome" is pure excess, seemingly random guitar abuse slapped across a cocaine overdose meditation.
Altogether, Exurbian Quonset is uneven, but that just seems to be how Donovan operates. The notable freak from the San Francisco psych scene gives with one hand and takes with the other. As such, he is a frustrating guy to be a fan of, but he does make it worth the effort. (Drag City)