Holy Infinite Freedom Revivalists
Everything, Now! — Hey Teenage Girls, It's Everything, Now!
Works Cited — We're Excited
Golden Moses — Moses Ah Um
John Henry Thor — Damaged Fruit
I really want to give Holy Infinite Freedom Revivalists — a four-EP set collecting work written and performed by the apparently rather prolific Jon Rogers, in many guises and with help from many friends — an A for effort. But the project is an exercise in unevenness and eclecticism, ranging from the high-point of the opening EP, which sees Everything, Now! in effortless, '60s sci-fi jangle pop form, to the mind-numbing synth dickery of Moses Ah Um, which has an album cover (a riff on Mingus Ah Um, natch) way more impressive than the contents therein. So let's call it an even shake and focus on the high points.
Everything, Now! has their rambling, disjointed, '60s pop thing down, from "Over and Away," with its bright guitars, sweet vocal harmonies and happy-go-lucky mysticism, to "Jesus Johnny Appleseed," which opens with a nicely-plucked quote from Nashville (Haven Hamilton introing a song before Barbara Jean's ill-fated theme park performance), and then rolls half-hazardly from there, stopping to see "Dick Chaney tied to the railroad track with a hundred 30-pound notes on his back," before making a goofy L. Ron Hubbard joke about being "clean" (Scientology being a major interest of these guys). They're pretty good in Byrds-style country rock mode too ("Hope in Fearsville," "Ten Ton Truth"), as well as with a trippy power ballad ("Pants of the Dragon," which closes with another choice quote, this one from what sounds like an instructional film about parapsychology). Rogers's lyrics work best in this setting, when they come fast and quick, in an engaging jumble of imagery. The problem with the rest of the set is that those lyrics are too much in the foreground, with not much going on musically to distract from kind of jejune moments like "Old Man's Face" (from the Works Cited EP) and "Zyklon B" (from John Henry Thor).
But I criticize because I admire Rogers's ambition, and there are worthwhile songs on at least two of the set's last three EPs. The Works Cited EP, which sees Rogers working in a straight-ahead, singer-songwriter with acoustic guitar setting, delivers a fun Tin Pan Alley-flavored uke-and-guitar parting shot to a girl ("Vessel") and a back-to-the-land ballad that teeters interestingly between parody and sincerity, as exemplified by its title, "Utopians (Spread Your Love)." The John Henry Thor EP, which commemorates a retired project by Rogers poised between the acoustic sound of Works Cited and the electrified Everything, Now!, scores with "Saint John," which incorporates both a goofy but disturbing sound byte (in this case, a child singing the Mormon mega-hit "I Want To Be a Missionary") and a closing quote from "I'll Fly Away."