Saturday is like triple-Christmas for fans of local Pop/Rock institution, psychodots. The trio — Chris Arduser, Bob Nyswonger and Rob Fetters — is not only doing a reunion show at the Southgate House (with openers Culture Queer), but they'll use the gig as a springboard to launch two new solo 'dot releases.
· If you think you already know what a new Rob Fetters disc is going to sound like, don't be fooled. Fetters' Musician doesn't exactly shatter expectations, but it is certainly the songwriter's biggest musical stretch yet. On his first solo album since 1998's Lefty Loose, Righty Tight, Fetters' knack for perfect Pop hooks and clever, master songwriting is still intact. But Musician is more daring, as Fetters utilizes the recording studio to its fullest extent. Augmenting several songs with synths, loops, effects and samples, the album strays some from the comparatively "live band" sound of his other work, giving some of it an electro undertow that is jarring at first. The result is a true "headphone experience," especially on the wild and unusual track, "Musician/No/Dinner," a three-song collage that begins as a straight Pop tune before evolving into a head-spinning trip-out of spoken samples that wouldn't be out of place on an experimental music album. But Wolf Eyes this ain't — for the most part, the sonic tricks are subtle, enhancing the layering, but never diminishing the impact of the song. Longtime Fetters fans will still find a true "Fetters album" in Musician, with great Pop tunes like "I Didn't Know" and "Zero," and his trademark mix of wit and deeper emotional musings is in full force (the quirky calliope spin of "Clown" brings those forces together in one track).
And many times the more adventurous production approach results in something gracefully layered, giving a few tracks ("Slave," "Malcolm and Margerie") a Peter Gabriel vibe. Ultimately, Musician is Fetters' most engagingly challenging album, a refreshing, bold move from one of Cincinnati's finest songwriters ever.
· Fresh off of his collaboration on guitarist George Cunningham's solo effort, Stumblingham, Chris Arduser returns with The Celebrity Motorcade, the solo follow-up to 2002's Hostage. While not quite the sonic leap of Fetters' disc, Motorcade finds Arduser in top form from a songwriting standpoint. Performed, written and produced entirely by the pyschodots drummer/vocalist, Motorcade is a "concept record" revolving around characters from old Hollywood. Arduser gets into the head of comedian Fatty Arbuckle on "Roscoe," painting the tragic figure sympathetically as a victim of circumstance ("They called you Fatty/'Cause that's all they could see"), while "Remember Irving Thalberg" remembers the sacrifices of the unsung movie maven who revolutionized the role of "producer" in film. The thematic thread that runs throughout is fascinating and works incredibly well, but it wouldn't hold up without Arduser's tremendous songwriting. It never feels like he's forcing the theme into the songs (or vice versa), as "Thalberg" and cuts like "Disneywhore" and "At the Factory" are each strong enough to stand apart from the rest of the album. Other highlights include the early Who Pop of "She Might Try" and the wispy, fluid "Erich Von Stroheim." Brilliant stuff. Come for the stories, stay for the sounds.