How to Get Your Record Played in Shops

by: Mike Donovan

More often than not, the reason the leader of a band makes a solo album is to do stuff he or she couldn't get away with in the context of a group. Given the loose musical boundaries of his work fronting the Sic Alps and the Peacers, it's hard to imagine what creative shackles Mike Donovan felt he needed to throw off when he chose to make his second proper solo album, 2018's How to Get Your Record Played in Shops. But this material does give Donovan the opportunity to create outside the context of a group, and he seems eager to make the most of working by himself, giving his lo-fi psychedelic impulses free rein. Most of the tracks on How to Get Your Record Played in Shops came out of keyboard experiments, and without the presence of drums, this rocks less than his work with his bands and doubles down on deep echo and gloomy ambience. Much of How to Get Your Record Played in Shops sounds like it's bleeding out of a basement door at 2 a.m., and Donovan revels in the album's low-tech vibe. The tracks are dominated by thrift-shop keyboards and noisy guitar runs accompanied by reverb-soaked vocals, and even though Donovan appears to be having fun on some of these tracks, most of the time the songs feel doomy and introspective, suggesting Jandek with stronger instrumental skills. This material sometimes feels as if Donovan were making it up as he went along, but if he meanders, the music never lacks a sense of purpose, and his commitment to the fuzzy underworld of his creation is never less than complete. Not everyone who digs Donovan's more rock-oriented projects will connect completely with How to Get Your Record Played in Shops, but if you want to experience his musical vision in primal form, this merits your time and attention. ~ Mark Deming

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