"The Hate Yourself Change"
It may not have the cachet of Greenwich Village circa 1962, but Omaha has become a folk-music regional capital. Technically, the music played by such groups as Bright Eyes (the scene's best-known export), Neva Dinova and Mayday is folk-rock, since it encompasses electric guitars and rhythm sections. But the Omaha sound is so stark that it suggests Woody Guthrie more than the Byrds.
Singer-guitarist Jake Bellows goes it alone on "Hat O'er Eyes," the spare ditty that opens Neva Dinova's second album, "The Hate Yourself Change."
Yet Neva Dinova is a band, with five members who get sedately raucous on such rootsy semi-rockers as "She Can't Change." The album even ends with a sort of power ballad, "I've Got a Feeling," which enlists a barroom men's chorus to croon, "The world's a [expletive] place and I can't wait to die."
That refrain pretty much sums up the album's worldview, which drags even more than the group's customary tempos. "Sick," "die" and "tired" seem to be Neva Dinova's favorite words, so the band shouldn't be surprised if listeners with a post-adolescent outlook soon weary of these sometimes pretty but mostly jejune compositions.
Bellows wrote one of the tunes on Mayday's third album, "Bushido Karaoke," and it fits right in with such numbers as "I'm Not Afraid to Die" and "Standing in Line at the Gates of Hell." Evoking bushido -- Japanese for "way of the warrior" -- principal songwriter Ted Stevens addresses a "wandering samurai" in "Hidden Leaves," one of many numbers that strive to be fierce; such songs as "Old World New World" and "Rock and Roll Can't Save Your Life" reject various forms of solace. If Mayday is no more cheerful than Neva Dinova, it is more outgoing. Stevens and his cohorts favor full arrangements, complete with piano, horns, strings and backing vocals, that sometimes suggest the lush bummers of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. The bigger sound doesn't gladden Mayday, but it does obscure some of the album's more risible lamentations.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at Iota.