Golden Smog

Down by the Old Mainstream – 1996 (Rykodisc)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

CDs by Golden Smog

Take one Soul Asylum (Dan Murphy), two former Jayhawks (Marc Perlman and Gary Louris), one Wilco (Jeff Tweedy) and two lesser known bands' members (Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run and Noah Levy of The Honeydogs), and the result is a fun, side-group project. Most of the 14-song effort works. There is a twangy, country rock feel in the The Byrds and Neil Young vein ("Ill Fated" and "Radio King"), although a softer side ("Pecan Pie" from Tweedy) emerge with mandolins adorning the song. And a rock vibe is quite evident as well. The members trade off lead vocals with almost all capable. Recorded in only five days, was this was the strongest material the band had? Some songs just come across as being clunky or silly ("Yesterday Cried" and "He's a Dick"). One almost wonder if this is all an inside joke. But there is enough inspired musicianship and good song structure evident. Label this side-group project ragged, but right.