Are all-star super groups a disappointment? The number of bands made up of members from celebrated groups that have lived up to any of the hype surrounding them can probably be counted on one hand. Hell, an argument can be made that you wouldn’t even need to use that hand.
Insert: Anywhere. A new band out of Los Angeles made up of Mike Watt, Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In and Mars Volta semi-fame, Big Business guitarist Toshi Kasai and Rachel Fannan, ex-singer of Sleepy Sun. Considering the experimental nature of Watt and Zavala, along with the nasty guitar chops of Kasai, Anywhere sounds promising on paper. It also helps than none of these members seem like they would be swayed to form a super group for the sake of selling tickets and publicity. This isn’t exactly Velvet Revolver, people.
Despite the solid CVs of all members involved, their self-titled debut lands on our hard-drives mostly with a nu-world music thud. While the term “world music” holds negative connotations in regards to it’s western-centric approach to sounds not from North America, it might still hold some useful connotations for bands like Anywhere. You know the kind. Band that attempts to utilize/incorporate/appropriate stylistic elements or instruments beyond their borders into their brand of internationally-tinged music sans context.
Which is an apt description of Anywhere’s debut from the inclusion of a tabla in opening track “Pyramid Mirrors” to the the cyclical, slightly improvisational nature of the guitar work on tracks like “Rosa Rugosa” or “Shaman Mantra,” which seem vaguely influenced by string-heavy Arabic styles such as chaabi or rai, showcasing an impressive dexterity in the musicianship of the players. Even the strange time-signatures on “Infrared Moses” or lengthy, meandering jam tracks like the stuttering, mid-tempo “Khamsin,” channel a sound from beyond the states that is too vague and removed from it’s context of origin to directly recognize. Even the cover of the record, with its tropical and untamed scenery clearly not anywhere close to L.A., speaks of a band attempting to broaden its musical horizons, even if they are poorly defined or would make most ethnomusicologist cringe.
The main problem that so often characterizes this brand of rock (and there are many), is that the players seem to often forgot about “listenability.” Unfortunately, Anywhere falls prey to this as well. If you are into seasoned musicians jamming out in an attempt to re-soundtrack Lawrence of Arabia or like hearing Cedric Bixler-Zavela practice hitting his high notes, or love those directionless slightly psychedelic moments that seemed to characterize the records of late grunge torchbearers, then Anywhere might be the latest addition to your collection of records to burn incense to.
For the rest of us, Anywhere fails to offer anything much beyond the music found in your local gift shop. Chalk it up as another group of excellent musicians circle jerking in an expensive studio for the sake of their egos, and not our ears.