Jeff Phillips: guitar
Chris Dye: vocals/guitar
Greg Evanski: bass
Dave Sobel: hammond organ/keyboards
Lance Porter: drums
No, there’s no connection to Flash. The name of the band Gordon stands for a feeling, the sense of wonder and liberation that great music has always imparted to its listeners. And it’s that feel-ing which characterizes this Los Angeles quintet’s self-titled debut album (Fifty-Seven Records/550 Music).
Like their name, Gordon’s lyrics tend toward the enigmatic. “Fortified Grapes”the album’s super-energized opening track and its first singlefeatures the less-than-transparent chorus: “Fortified grapes from a lemon tree/Taste better than animosity.” Gordon’s ode to “Pain” begins with the equally obscure “It was gone by the porch step/We never knew why/It was stranger than concepts/To frequently fly.”
But Gordon’s penchant for head-scratching lyrics seems whimsical rather than pretentious: The words inspire bemused smiles rather than confused frowns. And the music that surrounds the faultless vocals of Chris Dye make clear Gordon’s benign intent: The band’s sound is upbeat, brilliantly textureda neo-psychedelic wall of sound, with Dave Sobel’s Hammond organ and keyboards bringing to mind sunny afternoons. It’s with good reason that band members characterize their work as a “sonic mood enhancer.”
In the words of one journalist: “Anyone looking to find angst-filling whining, overly analytical philosophizing or militant preaching should look elsewhere. This music is about pure enjoyment. Period.” So, it’s not surprising that the tune that bass player Greg Evanski nominates as most typically Gordon is “Better Daze,” an optimistic lost-love song that begins (un-obscurely): “Sadness and sorrow slowly slip away/I heard tomorrow might be stopping by today.”
It’s not surprising either that USA Today cited Gordon as one of the most-anticipated debut albums of 1999. Indeed, the album so impressed Billboard editor-in-chief, Timothy White, that he featured Gordon on the cover of the first issue of Weather Bureau, BPI’s new magazine devoted to developing artists and the new music climate.
Jeff Phillipsguitarist, arranger, and co-songwriter of Gordonhas held the band together through a nearly three-year odyssey leading to their debut disk. When one-time early collaborator and lyricist Devin Kamin left the band, Jeff thought for a moment that Gordon’s future had gone with him. But
“I was sitting in our rehearsal room the day Devin left the band,” Jeff recalls. “Chris Dye came to pick up our bass player, Greg Evanski. We were in the middle of a jam and I asked Chris if he wanted to join in. He grabbed the microphone, and there was instant chemistry among us.” Like Greg, Chris Dye was a former member of popular West Coast band Dashboard Prophets.
Gordon, The Album, was created by Jeff Phillips, Chris Dye, Dave Sobel and Greg Evanski, with session drummer Josh Freese at the kit and album producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine) playing bass on some tracks. After the album was completed, Gordon recruited LA-based drummer Lance Porter. “Making this record really strengthened the band and brought the songs into focus,” notes Jeff Phillips.
Brendan O’Brien brought Gordon to his Sony-distributed Fifty-Seven Records after being strongly impressed by the band’s early acoustic guitar and drum-loop-driven demo tape. Says O’Brien: “On a gut level, you can feel when an artist is special. And Gordon strikes me in that vein.” Under his expert guidance, Gordon’s eleven songs were honed to a fine edge at Southern Tracks studios in Atlanta, with superbly engaging results.
“Much of today’s music,” Jeff Phillips observes, “is made…solely to captivate the audience….With Gordon, we strive to captivate ourselvesnot an easy task.”
“All we care about is making great music,” Chris Dye avers. “And as long as people can identify with the music, then we’ve done our job.”
The meaning of its name may be obscure, its public utterances gnomic, its lyrics less than straightforward. But none of that really matters. What counts is the music. And that, undeniably, is some of the smartest and (dare one say) uplifting sound around. In captivating themselves, Gordon have made a good start at captivating the world.