OH-OK (Buy CDs by this artist)
Wow Mini Album EP (DB) 1982
Furthermore What EP (DB) 1983
BUZZ OF DELIGHT
Sound Castles EP (DB) 1984
Hello EP (Nightshade) 1987
Make Djibouti EP (Texas Hotel) 1988
Swollen (Texas Hotel) 1990
After hearing so many art bands buried in their own sense of self-importance, it's refreshing to bask in the modesty of Athens' Oh-OK. Like R.E.M. (with whom they share a family tie), this humble group put their elliptical ideas over as much by being good guys as anything else.
Oh-OK was a guitarless trio on the 7-inch Wow, offering four clever and tuneful songs that get their drive from Lynda (sister of Michael) Stipe's pumping bass and their charm from Linda Hopper's breathy singing: a delightful mix of Pylon and the female side of the B-52's.
With a new drummer and guitarist Matthew Sweet joining Hopper and Stipe, Furthermore What (a six-song 12-inch, co-produced by Mitch Easter) has dreamy melodies, oblique lyrics, ringing guitars it is the New South, after all and quirky, minimalist arrangements that hover just outside the pop realm. This kind of undersell rarely ascends to greatness, but Oh-OK is a distinctly fresh pleasure.
Following Oh-OK, Sweet formed the Buzz of Delight, a sugary pop duo, with original Oh-OK drummer David Pierce. The six finely wrought tunes on Sound Castles capture the essence of airy Southern power-pop and are ultimately delightful.
Hopper, meanwhile, formed Holiday with Lynn Blakey (also a singer/guitarist/songwriter) and a rhythm section. Recorded in 1985, the 12-inch Hello makes good use of the women's vocal interplay on five light and sprightly songs that have an appealingly casual sense of accomplishment. (More recently, Hopper has been fronting a new quartet that changed its name from Homemade Sister to Swell.)
Although her name is Lynda L. Limner, the Hetch Hetchy singer with a sometimes harsh loud-soft-loud style is the selfsame Stipe sister. (Michael produced the trio's six-song debut.) From the lightly laughing clarinet that opens "Retarded Camel" through chunks of darkly deep guitar and lots of smooth new music electronic keyboards, the melodic group named after a valley in Yosemite National Park creates the kind of lightly arty pop-rock that college radio eats for breakfast, lunch and dessert.
With production by Hugo Largo's Tim Sommer, Hetch Hetchy now a duo of Limner (vocals, bass, guitar and keyboards) and Jay Totty (bass and guitar), assisted by local singers and players moves into tastefully restrained atmospheric vagueness on Swollen. Some of the songs use drums and a few ("Satanette," "Retsina," "Mother's Drum") actually have decisive melodies but, for the most part, this is sub-Largo background music in need of a spine.[John Leland/Andrea 'Enthal/Ira Robbins]
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