There's a disturbing trend in the Northwest: bands are getting way over-hyped before their first full-length record (which is often mediocre and disappointing) even hits the streets. Seattle's Harvey Danger, however, deserved the buzz that their debut CD generated. Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?
was quite simply one of the best Emerald City records released in 1997. It has the pop accessibility of vocalist Sean Nelson's high-register croon (not unlike Jeremy Enigk), and the energetic and dynamic punch of a band--guitarist Jeff Lin, bassist Aaron Huffman, and drummer Evan Sult--that had developed its chops together for more than four years. Harvey Danger have drawn all the worthwhile elements from 1990s indie rock and created a sound that is at once their own, yet completely familiar. Lin's guitar is full and confident, ranging from full-on power chords to buzzing melodies, while Huffman frequently takes the leads with his fat, distorted bass humming away. Sult ably links the two with a minimum of flash and pretence. Nelson's clear-as-a-bell vocals and sardonic, clever, and frequently emotional lyrics are both the album's strongest and weakest aspects. Occasionally his verbosity overcomes the music and his almost condescending sniping becomes a little tiresome. However, these are minor complaints in the big picture, because songs like "Carlotta Valdez", "Flagpole Sitta", and "Problems and Bigger Ones" are true gems, and for a first effort, this is as close to flawless as a band can get. --Adem Tepedelen