Early Attacks on Wax
Before the review begins properly, it is interesting to examine what this release actually is. Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People by Chicago outfit Califone was first released in 2002 on CD, and was a compilation of the band’s first two EPs. It has now been re-released solely as a double vinyl with extra cuts, a couple of which were takes and demos that predate either EP. Now sidestepping for a moment the noteworthy choice to release this collection solely on vinyl, in the midst of a resurgence of the medium mind you, it must be said that the music does sound at home here.
Much of the music is residing in a style very reminiscent of prime-era Beck. Taking tracks that meld folky drone-style guitars with repeating drum loops as in opener “On the Steeple with the Shakes (X-mas Tigers),” one would guess some of these tracks would have felt at home on one of Beck’s later ’90s–early ’00s recordings. However where the two differ is that where at times Beck would allow the music to lapse into an almost surrealistic confluence of different musical strands, Califone takes a more laid-back approach to this strain of weirdness, instead choosing to experiment more with mood and minimalism than style and tempo. For example, tracks like the wobbly “To Hush a Sick Transmission” and “Electric Fence” ride similar two-step shuffling, half natural–half looped beats, but use the extra experimental space to investigate on one hand an almost Partch-like clanking dissonance, and on the latter hand, a quasi-psychedelic haze. Both are effectively weird, and weirdly effective.
Regardless of how reminiscent Califone’s sound might be at times during these formative years, this is not a band of rookies twiddling their thumbs. Having already seasoned themselves in blues rock band Red Red Meat, the group already had a firm grip on stylizing their folk–blues guitar roots with an underlying sense of indie, lo-fi and abstract noisemaking. Hence, it should comes as no surprise the breathing medium of vinyl is a perfect canvas for such sounds. As a result of this approach, however, the music, at least for the uninitiated, might come off a little too loose for its own good. The songs definitely work more effectively in unison than they do as isolated tracks.
The last side of this release, which contains previously unreleased material—words almost synonymous with the word reissue these days—doesn’t shed too much new light on Califone’s formative years, aside from the markedly uptempo “A Horse Sized Pill,” which closes this release in fine fashion. Though as mentioned, the songs here wonderfully fit the feel and pacing of an experimental long player format—and a double at that. On its own terms, the release is likely aimed more so at diehards and collectors, who will obviously be more appreciative of not only the rare and unreleased tracks it promises, but also the aesthetic choice Califone made in its presentation.