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Acetone 

York Blvd. (Vapor)

Wednesday, Jan 24 2001
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Despite being named after the flammable solvent, Acetone is not the kind of band you'd call "on fire" (which may explain the ice caps on its logo). Nor does Acetone go out of its way to let people know the trio exists: A recent tour included just one date in the group's native L.A. district, Silverlake. But one huff of the band's breezy, atmospheric music might leave you high, if not hooked.

While Acetone's songs are shrouded in the sound of indie rock's figurative patron saints the Velvet Underground, the group goes beyond smoggy feedback and drone, offering a fine-tuned hybrid of sonic blooze and tranquilized surf-rock. By dumping the noisier aspects of forebears like Sonic Youth and the lightweight, blissed-out tones of contemporaries like the Radar Brothers, Acetone ends up occupying the space between -- the netherworld where trance and fusion meet prog and pop.

Two double-bummers open the band's fourth full-length, York Blvd.: the heavy, heavy bass-driven number "Things Are Gonna Be Alright" and a swirly, sarcastic anti-song about the (not so) "Wonderful World." But Acetone, with all of its sadcore trappings, has a classic rock heart. Both "19" and "Vaccination" are possessed by the spirit of the Beatles' Abbey Road -- the former echoing "Sun King" and the latter borrowing the monster bass of "Come Together." "It's a Lie" has all the earmarks of a Neil Young tune -- from the garage-folk guitar break to a direct lyric quote: "There's nothing I can say/ To make it go away." Another song, "Stray," calls on Alex Chilton's black hole of hopelessness. Then there's the organ on "Vibrato," which isn't so much otherworldly as it is from another decade. (The one exception to the classic rock parade is "Like I Told You," a tune firmly entrenched in this century by Steve Hadley's hip hop-ish percussion.)

Both creepy and pretty, Mark Lightcap's guitar work is the heart and soul of the band, trafficking in the tradition of past masters like Young, George Harrison, Duane Eddy, and Chet Atkins. He's able to go from slide to wah-wah to icy cool in one fluid solo, proving that evocative lead guitar needn't have died with the advent of punk rock.

While Acetone seems to have found a suitable home, after much label-hopping, on Young's Vapor imprint, there's still no guarantee it'll be noticed -- in fact, the band's tendency toward musical references and willful obscurity nearly ensures its oblivion. But with York Blvd. Acetone leaves no doubt that it has a spark worth igniting.

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Denise Sullivan

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