Click to hear: “Portraits of Poor Traits”
Like Belfast’s Andrew Luckless, Portland’s Jeff Beam performs and produces albums’ worth of off-kilter songs, playing numerous instruments himself (in Beam’s case with, literally, a little help from his friends).
Venus Flying Trapeze is an enjoyable, though uneven, batch of bluesy psych-rock that not infrequently lifts directly from the Fab Four. “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” Beam sings on the jaunty “People Places.” The instrumental “Northern Floor” keeps threatening to turn into the chorus of “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.”
To be frank, that shit’s annoying — and unnecessary. The stronger material on Venus is the less Beatlesque stuff, like the spacey instrumental opener, “Fly Trap,” and the clattering rock of “Loudspeaker Wallpaper.” Songs like “Portraits of Poor Traits” and “Can’t You Feel the Curve of the Earth?” are clearly inspired by Liverpool’s finest, but do a better job melding that influence with more original music.
Marc Bolan’s estate should get royalty payments from the title track, though “Mister Sister” takes the T. Rex aesthetic in a new (and more bizarre) direction. The short instrumental “Problem of Other Minds” is a throwaway, and on “Mere Mirror” Beam sings “say something” so many times that you want to reach through the speakers and smack him.
This is a rather lo-fi recording. Beam’s scratchy voice tends to get muffled and the drums sound like they were recorded in a closet, but there are also some cool found-sounds and odd melodic touches that catch the ear.
Beam is among the more promising and imaginative players in town. If he can shake off the shackles of his idols, diversify and clean up his sound, he’ll be one of the best.
— Chris Busby
Jeff Beam plays Fri., Jan. 21, at Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m., with opener Britta Pejic. Tix: $2 (21+). For more on Beam, visit jeffbeam.bandcamp.com.