Listening to Centro-Matic, one inevitably encounters the apparition of a younger Bob Pollard, hovering over the laconic lo-fi fuzz that envelops Will Johnson's music. Since his 1996 debut, Redo the Stacks, Johnson has proved to be a consummate popsmith, essaying shambling, bittersweet ballads and percolating, slow-burn power pop with equal skill.
Understated in its grace, but resplendent with infectious melodies -- like Guided by Voices' early oeuvre -- Centro-Matic's laid-back sound is inconspicuous and humble enough to be anonymous. In a weathered voice that's rough without being abrasive, Johnson's hoarse vocals infuse the tracks with a world-weariness that dovetails with their often laconic pace. While Johnson draws on many of the same British Invasion touchstones as GBV, there are additional elements of country-rock that befit his Texas background and invoke the gentle restraint of Crazy Horse in its quieter moments. With more than eight albums (counting solo and side projects) in as many years, Johnson appears as prolific as Pollard, lacking only the breakthrough of a Bee Thousand to boost his profile and perhaps finally disentangle Centro-Matic from its phantasmal shadow. The opening act, Summer Hymns, are birds of a feather, meshing an ethereal psych-rock sound with a bit of indie-country twang, for a sound reminiscent of Grandaddy.
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