The Phantom Tollbooth

Artist: the dipsomaniacs
Label: Face Down Records
Lenght: 12 Tracks/44:06 minutes

Why didn’t the Replacements ever get the hits they deserved? Hipsters adored them because they had the nerve to write a tribute to an obscure rock figure (“Alex Chilton”). They also had the good sense to cover a Kiss song (“Black Diamonds”), meaning they weren’t exactly elitists, either.  The Replacements should have had a few more fans than they did.

While the dipsomaniacs are not indebted to Kiss, they still have the spirits of the Paul Westerberg & Co. inhabiting their music. If Undertow wasn’t an album of original songs, it would be a salute not just to the Replacements, but also the Who, the Kinks, Big Star and a truckload of other bands. This is power pop at its most raw: songs about girls, school, and childhood, none of them complicated or dull.

“Krackow,” for example, is about a crush. “Get Off My Bike” is about a kid who wants his bike back. “Wake Up” and “Graduation” are about refusing to grow up. With such hard-hitting topics as these, it’s no surprise the dipsomaniacs refer to themselves as “the garage band that never broke up.” It’s also no surprise that they call themselves the dipsomaniacs. For the uneducated (myself included—I had to look this up), a dipsomaniac is someone with an irresistible craving for alcohol—not unlike any member of the Replacements. These four guys clearly do not aspire to much.

Such a low-key attitude leads to a lot of fun, but it can also be a drawback. Without much ambition, the musical influences can be a little too obvious. Anyone into any of the aforementioned bands will have a good time listening to this CD, but anyone looking for something original might want to pass this one up. Still, the dipsomaniacs set out what they aim to do, and it’s fun while it lasts.

Tommy Jolly 9/19/99