HERE'S fresh first vinyl from two promising hometown bands, The Neighbors and Not Even, neither of which lets image-mongering get in the way of music-making.
The Neighbors' "Welcome Wagon" combines early Brit-rock influences with American roots-rock impulsiveness, so they sound sort of like an American Squeeze, or a swell bar band reinterpreting XTC's "Skylarking" LP with all the layers of studio polish stripped away. There's an appealing roughness to Peter Gilstrap and John Moreman's twin guitars and vocals as the four Neighbors race through 14 good-to-very-good originals like the sly "Two Ninety-Eight," the pre-"Pepper" Beatles harmony of "Valerie," and the title track, which takes a quick detour south of the border.
Not Even's "Pant Sale" has slicker packaging yet a slighter sound than The Neighbors. Apparently the band has done some close listening to college radio; there's a healthy dollop of R.E.M. guitar jangle in there, but then just about every current American indie band has borrowed a fragment of that sound. Jeff Chamberlain's vocals are strong but could benefit from some more character, and lyrics like those in the wishful-thinking anti-Yuppie anthem "Baby Go Boom" sometimes strain at earnestness. The bright guitar-pop constructed by guitarists Ted Ayers and Dave Murphy is attractive, if it takes few chances. The best of the quintet's six songs are the buoyant "Here Now" and the Smiths-ish "It's Only Me" with its high-life guitar and somber lyric about returning to a hometown. THE NEIGHBORS -- "Welcome Wagon" (Upside 60010). NOT EVEN -- "Pant Sale" (Top 003).
Both appearing Sunday at the Bayou.