Hanoi Janes is actually Oliver Scharf. On this self-absorbed recording Scharf is joined by a few friends who contribute drums on ten of the fifteen songs, but otherwise, every bit of it is the man himself.
It’s an assemblage of mostly raw bones, with a clatter and clang underpinning a ringing, sometimes whiny, vocal. “Bad Attitude” is excellent, with a sublime melodicism, somewhat in the vein of the Swell Maps, and it features great rackety drums by one of the three drummers, Marco Volkel. “Beach Kids” is cool, effortless, lo-fi garage-rock of the type that Scharf can do in his sleep, I’m quite sure.
A lot of this can be described as minimalist and mild-to-medium abrasive, with a flair for some occasional vocal dissonance. There’s still something to be said for that aesthetic, especially in the age of MP3s, but since this anti-pop-rock sound has been mastered and manipulated by so many artists/bands before it’s imperative to find a reason to go there, as it were, before you actually do so.
Either it’s the most effective way of putting across the sum total of your musical angst, or it’s an exercise/experiment in found sounds and sound collages and in deconstructing/reconstructing pop-rock forms. In the case of Mr. Scharf it seems to be a bit of both, with a slight lean toward the latter. I get the impression that if he’d back off the racket once in a while, his detuned guitar and his distortion pedal would have that much greater impact. Maybe he just has to purge these demons first.
Heck, we’ve all got to start somewhere. Next time out I’d be expecting a broader vocabulary.