F R Double E
Jim Mills has been a fixture on L.A.'s rock scene for years, though his sound has been anything but fixed. A founding member of squall-thrall hipsters Drill Team and sometime amanuensis of harmonizing superheroes Wondermints, Mills has explored everything from power pop to experimental noise... Adeptly employing a staggering range of instruments, he has emerged once again with a true solo album, F R DOUBLE E (Commune Records), recorded under the name Extra. Writing, producing, playing and singing every note, Mills salutes such major influences as late Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett; the tumbling, baroque exertions of The Who's middle period; David Bowie's glam-alien peak; Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson's teenage symphonies to God; all manner of '70s troubadours (Nilsson in particular springs to mind); prog-rockers like Yes and Genesis; and too many others to enumerate, yet he manages to transcend pastiche completely. F R DOUBLE E is a weirdly gorgeous world all it's own, a dreamlike terrain of twisty hooks, stacked harmonies, spiraling guitar solos and otherworldly piano that is at once expansive and intimate. 'I am music and that's all I know,' Mills sings at the end of opening track 'Forward to Mono,' and this is as good a manifesto as any for the republic of Extra. These creations invariably take wild and unbidden turns, such as the swinging, Zappa-esque keyboard interlude in 'The Medley I Warned You About,' which segues to a lyrical recitation of the value of pi before giving way to a blunt 'whatever.' A personal favorite is the sprawling piano-bar narrative 'Do You Know What You're Saying, Eddie?' Over the course of it's nearly seven minutes, the composition travels from hushed falsetto-and-baby-grand phrases to soaring, chiming, string-laden pop à la Todd Rundgren. The dreamy 'Minutes' pairs acoustic strums, a listless groove and sleigh bells, then eases into a country-fried piano solo of meandering simplicity before launching into a sweet and soulful section that would be called a chorus (or a great chorus) if it were repeated. But Mills is F R double E of the gravitational pull of convention. In fact, his preferred song structure is the suite - instead of cycling comfortably from verse to chorus to verse, Extra's pieces flame out a section at a time, like a spaceship uncoupling. ... - Simon Glickman, Editorial Emergency.