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Cover Art Roy Montgomery
324 E. 13th Street #7
[Drunken Fish]
Rating: 7.8

Ah, the East Village. Possibly the only spot in lower Manhattan that hasn't been completely infested by Gap-shopping, Frappucino-drinking yuppie scum. 324 E. 13th Street is in the more virtuous part of the East Village-- far enough east for good cheap eats, but far enough west to avoid the heroin addicts, pimps, hookers, and mentally-disturbed drunk homeless people. 324 E. 13th Street was also the address of guitar guru Roy Montgomery from 1994-1995, the time over which the greater part of the tracks on this compilation of singles and b-sides was recorded. Armed with a shitty Fender knockoff and a Tascam four-track, Montgomery set out to create sparse opuses for guitar and vocals. And the resulting music is very similar to the neighborhood from which it was born: dingy, but enchanting.

Roy Montgomery's status as a cult guitar hero is truly deserved. While he is by no means a flashy player, he can infuse a single shitty guitar with more personality and allure than any member of the sterile yet ornamented school of guitar. On tracks like "Just Melancholy," "Used To," and "Times Three," Montgomery milks his brandless Jaguar copy for all it's worth-– employing ambient chords and simple melodies to seamlessly construct vast, spatial guitar landscapes. This technique, combined with the dearth of other instruments and Montgomery's singularly downcast baritone, creates a feeling of complete isolation. As a New Zealander finding himself alone in one of the biggest cities on the planet, 324 E. 13th Street #7 seems to encompass what Montgomery was experiencing at the time he recorded these songs.

But though 324 is a singles collection, the full meaning of the album can only be experienced by listening to it straight through. By the time the last seconds of "In Your Wake" have dripped from your speakers, you find yourself feeling very small. Montgomery's paradoxical combination of the agoraphobic and the claustrophobic has created a feeling of utter separation. You're just another deserted particle floating around in the endless universe.

With four-track heroes like Robert Pollard and Lou Barlow now embracing glossier studio production, there's a vacancy for the position of "lo-fi hero"-- a vacancy Roy Montgomery is more than capable of filling. Montgomery's music transcends traditional lo-fi, though, sounding as much like the work of Kevin Shields as that of Stephen Malkmus. Indeed, Montgomery builds music based upon the very foundation of the neighborhood in which he lived; it doesn't take a huge budget to do great things.

-Matt LeMay



10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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