Overpass is the bristling phoenix rising from the ashes of Slovenly, a five- and sometimes six-headed outfit from the San Francisco area that peppered the 80s with a series of bracing, prickly releases as distinctive as anything alternative rock was producing. Lacking the ultracool, junked-out, Lower East Side caterwaul of Sonic Youth and the inebriate indifference of the Replacements, Slovenly toiled in brilliant obscurity, concocting a memorable rock alloy that fused dissonance, pop hooks, free-jazz sputtering, musique concrete, and vocalist Steve Anderson's portentous (some would say pretentious) existentialist Sprechgesang. This new lineup is Slovenly on Slimfast. Trimmed down to guitarist Tom Watson, drummer Rob Holzman, and bassist Zelig, Overpass deals in saw-toothed rock that's intelligent without being condescending, experimental without being incomprehensible. The band's recent eponymous release on New Alliance displays a refinement and a distillation of Slovenly's diverse forays; the tunes are more concise, the playing is tighter, and there's a slightly stricter adherence to traditional song form. Yet Overpass, like its predecessor, ventures into metallic rock ("Where's the Turkey?"), enticing power pop ("Boniak Harvest"), bitterly sarcastic balladeering ("R.C. Kola"), and the odd bouquet of instrumental hubbub ("Fleisch Milch"). The result is an idiosyncratic record that lies between boundaries and bypasses preconceptions. Those of you in the market for the ragged lethargy of slacker rock may want to reconsider. Opening for Simple Simon. Friday, Avalon, 959 W. Belmont; 472-3020.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Will Watson.