The endearingly long list of "thanks to" credits on Will
Phalen and the Stereo Addicts' debut includes, among friends and family,
Phalen's former Madison funk-rock band "The Mosaic" and "the Rathskeller crew."
Phalen and his brand of "Cosmic American Music" (borrowed from Gram Parsons, so
he says) may get a chance to thank that team again in person, when the Stereo
Addicts make a homecoming of sorts to Memorial Union Friday night.

Savvy concertgoers have a chance to check out Phalen's 2006
releaseVisions & Revisions before
they go, as the self-distributed album appeared on iTunes this week. And while
not every track rises above generic folk rock, there is enough intriguing
instrumentation and electronic tinkering to make the cold trek outside worth it
this weekend.

The up-tempo, country-rock swagger of the opener, "I Come
From the Ocean," is a bit misleading, as this motif is only seen once again on
the album, in "Lazy Sundays." Melody is in short supply elsewhere, eschewed in
favor of bored, bluesy lines solemnly intoned over dreary guitar and
synthesizer. The lyrics also rarely excite, content to package safe
descriptions like "She's got a body like a woman/ And the heart of a child."

But the Stereo Addicts never allow themselves to be pigeonholed,
and this is the album's saving grace. The repeated excuse of "Can't Come Down
Yet" — "I'd be with you… / But I just can't make it there/ You'll have to comb
your hair and wait for me" — is nothing special by itself, but the song's shy
funk opening, with a lazy Casio/concert bell duet line, brings it all together.

In the final track, "3+20,"Visions & Revisions' disparate elements finally coalesce and give the
Stereo Addicts a distinctive sound. The swaying rhythms of acoustic guitar and
mandolin waltz together and apart in a way that makes the intended wash of
Phalen's halting lines work. "3+20" builds into the lo-fi effects to make them
central to the sound, rather than flotsam obscuring the song's course, a
problem of the album as a whole. If Phalen and company can clear all that away
Friday, their river of sound will make a tempting ride, even against the chilly
breeze.

 

3 stars out of 5
Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts will
perform with Kinetix at Memorial Union Friday at 9:30 p.m.