All the Falsest Hearts Can Try
If you haven’t heard of Centro-matic, it’s certainly not for lack of effort on the group’s part. All the Falsest Hearts Can Try is the Denton band’s third CD in little more than a year; it dates back to a 1998 recording session that produced more than sixty songs, completing a triptych that includes March 1999’s Navigation and August 1999’s The Static vs. the Strings Vol. I. Will Johnson, formerly the drummer for the Dallas buzz band Funland, started Centro-matic in 1995 as a lo-fi solo project. Home-studio inspiration still figures into his modus operandi, but these days Centro-matic is a working four-piece that has moved beyond early influences like Pavement and Sebadoh. Its indie-rock allegiances remain strong enough that many songs here are actually oblique, bittersweet meditations on the mythology of those allegiances. But the band’s garage-pop also has a raggedly ornate quality, largely because of violinist-pianist Scott Danbom. Meanwhile, Johnson’s Texas rasp adds an alt-country feel to the elemental ballad “Gas Blowin’ Out of Our Eyes” and the understated rock epic “Members of the Show ‘Em How It’s Done,” which offers up lovely harmonies and gently picked guitars with perfect grace and clarity. Bubblegum hooks and buzzy-sweet guitar riffs are still the meat of the Centro-matic experience, and if the giddy “Hercules Now!” only proves that Johnson can still be Guided by Voices when he feels like it, the bright energy and deft musicality of “Huge in Every City” and “Most Everyone Will Find” suggest he’s creeping toward a pop fabulism more on the order of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Wilco didn’t truly blossom until it made a double album, so let’s give Centro-matic a little time — like, oh, maybe six months.