When Brad and Satchel started, they shared two members: singer Shawn Smith and drummer Regan Hagar. By the time this album was recorded (1997 for Satchel’s songs and 2001 for Brad’s), Brad guitarist Stone Gossard had produced Satchel’s The Family and both bands had replaced their respective bassists with Mike Berg. Furthermore, I don’t see a guitarist credited on the Satchel contributions. I think there might not even be guitar on them; I think Smith may have filled up enough space with keys that it’s not immediately obvious that these tracks are guitar-less. All of which is to say that for these tracks, Satchel is essentially just Brad minus Stone Gossard. So while it’s a split album, that’s a bit of a technicality: it’s kinda just one band.
Which isn’t to say it feels like a cohesive album. On the contrary, “[t]hese recordings are at various stages of completion,” the liner notes say, and it’s obvious that they’ve been released from demo purgatory simply by being released. But, as I’ve said before, a lot of Brad’s songs feel like demos anyway due to their lack of in-song dynamics and tendency to hang out with a comfortable groove for a couple of minutes at the end of a song. So the fact that that’s the case for all of the songs here is hardly noteworthy.
But what you’ve got here is pretty much what you’d expect given that description. They’re all good songs, or at least song ideas (“Summertime Song” would probably even reach that level with different production), many of them just feel like they’re sitting there waiting to be put into a prettier package, maybe patch one song’s chorus with a new verse, or add an intro here or a bridge there.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, almost entirely on the slower, lighter end of these bands’ spectra (rocker “Roll Over” is the stark exception there). A lot of these could have been much better, but I know sometimes songs just don’t want to be completed, and with this collection, I’m glad they got released as is.
– “Takin’ It Back” (Satchel), “Roll Over” (Brad), “Whose Side Are You On” (Brad), “Playground” (Brad)
– “Looking Forward” (Satchel), “Peace & Quiet” (Satchel), “I Don’t Know If…You’ll” (Brad), “3 O’Clock” (Brad), “Awake” (Brad), “I Must Confess” (Brad)
– “Summertime Song” (Brad)
Filed Between: Brad (Welcome To Discovery Park) and Billy Bragg & Wilco (Mermaid Avenue)
Song Notes: After the jump