- by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2016-04-29 Label:
East of Venus has been aptly described as an 'indie supergroup'. It brings together the talents of Glenn Mercer, Stanley Demeski (Feelies, Winter Hours), Rob Norris (Bongos) and guitarist, Michael Carlucci (Winter Hours). What beautiful music they make.
Memory Box showcases not only a tight ensemble, but exudes the joys and benefits of Television's stripped-down, no-nonsense approach. Add in some hooks worthy of Big Star and some gorgeous Byrds jangle and any resistence is futile. Right from the top, ‘Let’s Find a Way’ ropes you in with Michael Carlucci’s irresistible, mesmerizing guitar. Throw in some woozy slide runs and instantly, you’re transported into another world, ever so beautifully out of time.
The album is a mix of captivating originals and left of center covers. As tight and strong as this band is, Memory Box is clearly Carlucci’s show. Not only does his raspy, intimate voice take the lead on all but one track, he penned six of the album’s ten songs and contributed to a seventh. As for the choice of covers, they beautifully encapsulate Carlucci’s tastes and influences. From Lou Reed to Gene Clark. “Faded Pictures” is an unreleased number from the end of Carlucci's tenure with Winter Hours. The haunting ‘Wishing Well’ with its chiming guitars is East of Venus at their darkest and most cutting. In contrast, ‘In the Sun is a dreamy, infectious Pop gem. ‘You Started Something’ verges on Psyche territory with its fuzzy driving guitar.
Among the covers, the Red Bucket’s ‘Jane September’ seems tailor made for East of Venus. That might be because Carlucci, Mercer and Demeski were all members of the Buckets during its brief history. Their refreshingly up tempo, cynical take on, ‘Reason to Believe’, puts a new slant on Tim Hardin’s classic bitter pill. Lastly, their version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Citadel’ feels more at home in East of Venus’ hands than it ever did on Her Majesty’s Satanic Request. A gloriously sinister finish to an album that can only be described as dreamlike.
Memory Box is not only the debut of East of Venus, it’s also their last. Sadly, Michael Carlucci passed away suddenly just days after completing this album. Full disclosure, Michael Carlucci was a longtime friend of mine. So for this reviewer, Memory Box brings not only great joy but also great loss to mind. It also couldn’t be any more fittingly entitled. For friends and fans of Michael, it is box we can open time and again and hear our friend in his prime, doing what he loved most in the world. For those who are unacquainted with Michael and East of Venus, you’re in for an infectious treat.