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Creeper Lagoon

In the Bay Area, Creeper Lagoon has been amassing a sizable and extremely devoted following since the mid '90s, but the rest of the world is finding out about the band only now. It's easy to predict large-scale success for the band (though given the whims and vagaries of the record industry and popular taste, who knows), because they're one of those rare acts that manage to be really innovative and, well, good, while simultaneously creating music with genuine commercial appeal. Creeper Lagoon has been referred to as Pavement with samples," and while that ever-so-slightly cutting remark isn't entirely inaccurate, there's a lot more to the package than that. Without question, the group's sound is rooted in the ironic lo-fi indie rock ethic that distinguished Pavement, Sebadoh and their college-rock brethren. Ah, but there's so much more...You'll find layers of interesting overdubs throughout the mix, enigmatic sounds and samples, and warm unexpected instrumentation. But don't get the idea that the group's a one-trick pony that's found a distinctive recipe and just sticks to that: these guys are equally at home doing slacker folk, earnest rootsy rock, quirky pop, and shoegazer drone. It's not entirely seamless, but it comes pretty close.

Much of the band's greatness can be attributed to its dual songwriting geniuses, guitarist/pianist/singer Sharky Laguana (a name out of a gangster movie if ever I heard one) and guitarist/singer Ian Sefchick, a Lennon-and-McCartneyesque pair who strike a perfect balance between innovation and sentiment while effortlessly juggling their numerous stylistic balls. The duo's musical relationship dates back to their high school days back in Cincinnati, when both played in a punk band called the Rottweilers. In 1990, Laguana moved out to San Francisco with his four-track and started Creeper Lagoon as a solo project. He rejoined forces with Sefchick some years later, after the latter followed him out West and did a brief stint with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. In time, they recruited bassist Geoffrey Chisholm and drummer Paul Mangan (later replaced by David Kostiner). The quartet released its self-titled five-song debut EP in 1997 on Oakland rap label Dogday. Four of those songs reappeared (albeit in a different, rather more polished form) on the band's '98 full-length debut, I Become Small and Go, released on the Dust Brothers vanity label, Nickelbag, and featuring the production of Dust Brother John King on a few tracks. The success of that record earned the group a place in the DreamWorks juggernaut, where they recorded their eagerly awaited sophomore effort, the ambitiously titled Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday (2001). The record delivered on the eccentrically catchy promise of the first album, while eschewing its roughshod sloppiness in favor of more carefully layered, spacious production.

"Dear Deadly," a weird, angsty rocker with a great chorus, and "Second Chance," a warm, fragile almost-ballad, were among the songs that appeared on both the first EP and I Become Small. The guitar-driven indie rock anthem "Wrecking Ball," meanwhile, appears on Take Back the Universe.