Central Flow – Variety Lights

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David Baker was a founding member of, and frontman for, the quasi-legendary Mercury Rev, and while he only appeared on their first two albums, Yerself is Steam and Boces, those two underground post-modern masterpieces were so significant and ground-breaking he could ride that magic carpet forever and never have to record again and he’s at least going to be an entry somewhere in the annals of alternative music.

He left the tumultuous Mercury Rev in ‘93 and thereafter set his own agenda and, basically, disappeared. Will MacLean is his new songwriting partner on this odd album, which was recorded at Baker’s home studio with midi-expanders, analog keyboards and some ancient drum machines. The resulting display is a mundane space-rock-ish electronica that might be a half dozen other iffy bands in rehearsal mode. “Establishment,” for example, sounds more than a little like Pere Ubu, partly because the vocals sound like a mildly buzzed David Thomas.

The most experimental aspects of this are found in the dense analog synthesizer sounds, and also the half-assed way it seems to be thrown together; and there are a few brief flashes of what Baker brought to MR vocally, but those moments don’t last long enough to stick to anything. Some of this is just bad, like the de-tuned “Invisible Forest,” and some of it is too busy and fussy, with too many loose ends going nowhere.

If he reined in his bad habits and held back on the silly keyboard noises less could be more, as demonstrated on the timeless psych of “Oh Setting Sun.” Too many blips and squeals and I’m out. Here’s to resting on your laurels.