Population 02

Watsonville Patio

Farren Music America, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/18/2000

There's not a lot I can tell you about Watsonville Patio, as neither their personal website or the website of their record label have any information worth the pixels to display it. Thankfully, I don't have to. It's enough you know California-based Watsonville Patio has released their third CD, Population 02.

The band has an interesting sound. Imagine, if you will, 10,000 Maniacs where Stevie Nicks had succeeded Natalie Merchant, and you'd be close; it's a very folksy, comfortable sound, like a faded flannel shirt or an easy chair you've managed to wear the properly-shaped depression in. The sound washes over you, easy, digestible, not terribly challenging.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Watsonville Patio has built up its fan base by touring, and it shows; their music is seemingly designed to be performed live, guitar-heavy without too many frills or fripperies. The musicianship is competent, but nothing reaches out and smacks you with its concentrated greatness.

Indeed, it's hard to get smacked by anything at all on Population 02. The band's sound becomes homogenous to the point of hypnosis. There are some standout tracks - "Perfect Combination" is an intent, minor-keyed rocker that sounds like REM crossed with the Cowboy Junkies; "First Stop Tucson" is a country stomper that manages to sound bright and distinctive; and the harmonica-laced "Changed Your Mind" has a good beat and a coherent, strong sound.

Sadly, though, most of Population 02's sound disappears into either a morass of sameness, a funhouse mirror of sensitive indie female vocals, or, worse, ends up sounding like a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. I'm probably being a little unfair to lead vocalist Janice Grube - after all, unlike Ms. Nicks, she can pronounce the English language - but damn, it's eerie how much she sounds like the High Priestess Of Overproduced Arena Rock. Not even a cover of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic", otherwise well performed and arranged, manages to dispel the ghost of Stevie.

I don't mean it to sound like I thought Population 02 was bad, because it's not. There's just nothing notable to separate it from a hundred other albums of similar genre and theme - and in today's wide open music scene, flat competence isn't quite enough. There are a lot of people out there who swear by Watsonville Patio's sound - what web resources on the band I could find involved their passionate, devoted fan base. (Cool, maybe I'll get more hate mail. It's been a while.) I don't question that they couldn't become a distinctive, talented, unique-sounding band and produce a classic CD. Unfortunately, no matter how much you want it to be so, Population 02 isn't it.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Farren Music America, and is used for informational purposes only.