Spoon Box

International Orange

Stray Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


What is it about the South that creates entertaining characters, whether real-life or imagined?

I'm inspired to repeat this age-old question by the shambling bundle of brilliance that is Spoon Box, the debut EP from North Carolina's own indie rock supergroup, International Orange. The band features three singer-songwriters in Snuzz (a.k.a. Britt Uzzell, vocals and guitar), Django Haskins (vocals, guitar and keys) and former Ben Folds Five bassist/harmony vocalist Robert Sledge, plus drummer Jason Fagg. The immediate advantage that becomes apparent is that with three talented and idiosyncratic creative voices on board, the songs are strong and the harmonies terrific.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The sound could be described as deceptively loose-limbed, consistently sharp-witted indie rock with a Southern twist. Yes, the lyrics can be acerbic and, in places, depressing, but there's also a weird effervescence to these tunes. The characters in the songs may have big "L"s on their foreheads ("I'm the captain of a team that never wins / But there's always another year to try again"), but that doesn't keep the people making the music from having a helluva good time.

And what a cast of characters it is. The way this collection of shaggy-dog stories plays out -- with flair and insouciance -- is, it must be said, rather Ben Folds-ish. (That's a compliment, guys... a big one.)

Haskins' two contributions on this evenly spread six-track EP are the witty opener "Hand To Mouth" and the entertainingly downbeat "Alone," both full of well-arranged harmonies and clever observations ("Everybody fends off the things they can't control / And everybody's digging their own foxhole" goes one particularly potent line).

Sledge's "Tell Me What I Did" gets inside the head of a schoolyard bully who doesn't understand why he makes an enemy of everyone he meets, and somehow manages to make this generally unsympathetic character seem lost and innocent. Sledge's other contribution (besides superb bass and vocal harmonies) is the sweetly sad "Prince Charming," another twisted tale of dashed expectations.

Snuzz' initial offering "The Singer With Nothing To Say" nails the love-hate relationship between jealous fans and overhyped musicians ("They stare at your hair while you sing the words / Overrated and better that way"). Later, the album finishes with the more personal "Fayetteville," a surprisingly effective and affecting hometown anthem.

There's a kind of party-at-my-house looseness to many of the arrangements here, but that only serves to underscore the sharpness of the songs themselves. Spoon Box is a very entertaining introduction to a band that you have to hope we'll hear more from in 2005.

Rating: B+

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