Aden is one of those bands that makes rock critics nervous. Jeff Gramm's smooth vocals, Fred Kovey's chiming bass lines, and Kevin Barker's wiry, looping guitar leads don't provide much to criticize. Over three albums and two singles, Aden has tinkered and toyed with its warm-as-fresh-baked-cookies sound, coming ever closer each time to perfecting the recipe for sweet, velvety pop goodness. And any quibbles a critic might have with Aden's latest record, Hey 19, have probably already been tackled in vicious, hilarious detail by the band on its own Web site (www.hot-licks.org).
Recorded by Dave Trumfio (Wilco, Mekons) and aided by the fine trap work of stand-in drummer John Blaha, Hey 19 was one of 2000's best indie pop records. But you wouldn't know it from the band's online review of its musical handiwork. According to Gramm, “Dull Reactor” is a “shit sandwich. … Lame lyrics, loud vocals, and a chorus that doesn't work. This could have been a really good one, but we choked.” Kovey's assessment of the beautiful album closer “Brief Summer Rains” isn't much kinder: “I like this song but I can't shake the feeling I've heard it somewhere before. Jeff must have cribbed the melody from a Muppet movie or something.”
The band's sense of humor may help it deal with the absurd geographical state it exists in. With Kovey living in New York, Barker in Chicago, and Gramm in Washington, D.C., the group had almost as much difficulty setting up recording time for Hey 19 as it did coordinating a tour to support the record. Therefore, the Aden that graces the Bottom of the Hill stage this week will be missing both Kovey and Barker. Here's hoping the touring guitarist and bassist can't carry their weight. It'd be nice to have something to complain about for a change.