steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Eric Gaffney

"Uncharted Waters" CD

Handmade Records

Genre: lo-fi


Dec 21, 2009

For fans of nineties-era indie rock, Eric Gaffney needs no introduction. Part of Sebadoh's classic line-up from its inception in 1986 until just after the release of 1993's Bubble and Scrape, he certainly has an impressive resume, and this latest release is a decade's worth of closet treasures in the vein of Sentridoh and early Sebadoh. Little lo-fi nuggets share the stage with more fleshed-out pop songs, and while it is considerably rough around the edges, there is still a fair amount to fawn over on Uncharted Waters.

When these tracks are good, they can be pretty good. Neighbouring "Gone Wrong" and "Shark Attack" are both exemplary lo-fi tidbits. Over a record like this, however, it becomes evident how compositionally similar some of these songs are to one another; even the first two tracks are remarkably alike. Regardless, it is instrumentals such as "Arcadia," "Gold Trimmed Hat," and "Colorform Viewfinder" which steal the show - their quaint melodies are a joy to experience, making it seem as if wordless songs may be the optimal vehicle for Gaffney's songwriting talents. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of throwaway filler on here - stupid "Punk Rock Monkey," irritating "In Line," and flat "In Line" are just a few of the toss-ups that cast doubt upon Gaffney's ability to distinguish his better efforts from his lesser excursions. A large part of the problem has to do with his unpolished vocals, which are charming occasionally but can also serve to undermine the melodic nature of his songs.

Although you might be tempted to snatch several of these songs for mixtape fodder, it is unlikely that Uncharted Waters will become the sort of record you toss into the stereo and listen to in full. Gaffney's unique songwriting approach is part of what made early Sebadoh so great, and there are moments here that reflect his past triumphs. However, a full odds n' ends collection such as this, pulled off in a solo setting, does not do the man justice. While some of its tracks hit the spot, Uncharted Waters' appeal will be limited to indie completists.

eric gaffney's myspace


Fun Fact: Uncharted Waters includes covers of The Ramones' "Locket Love," Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street," and England Dan & John Ford Coley's "Nights are Forever."

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 27 tracks, distributed by the label, released Oct 17, 2008]