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Weekly Alibi The Boys of Summer

By Brendan Doherty

APRIL 20, 1998: 

June of '44

Rock has its identifiable movements, like art. The difficulty with music (and music criticism, often) is that the movement is shot, bagged, weighed, dressed and tagged--often before anything has actually coalesced. If there is to be a moniker that can grasp the wildly disparate group of bands that make artful, dynamic and thoughtful rock music, it will likely revolve around June of '44's drummer Doug Scharin. The indie rock drummer for the supergroup of sorts plays, quite literally, with everyone. Scharin plays with Rex and has his own DJ gig in addition to June of '44. He played with the seminal group Coedine. There could probably be a game of Seven Degrees of Doug Scharin going on right now.

"It's like a scavenger hunt trying to get all of his releases," says June's frontman Jeff Mueller. "Last year, he was on four or five full lengths and four or five compilations. That's just last year. We're all really busy, and that's great. We've always thought Doug was fabulous, and so it was worth putting up with a little hassle to play with him because he's so good."

No wonder that the spectre of scheduling becomes a problem for the band that includes former members of Hoover, Rodan, Retsin, Crownhate Ruin, Lungfish, Sonora Pine, HIM and others as well as active side projects and other full-time bands. They all live in different states, time zones and cities. Rather than see it as an insurmountable obstacle, the band has used whatever collective strength they have to continue working together. It's not easy, but one listen to the band, and it's clear why the members think the work is worth it.

"Rather than easing into life, I'm trying to give back to others," says Mueller. "We're all just work-hungry people," he continues. "Fortunately, we've been able to capitalize on the other projects that everyone does. When we finally take the time to play together or write, someone always brings a new experience with them. We're constantly unfolding as people. That's really exciting as a musician to work with. We don't have a static view of what people should do. On the new record, we took the time to write and contribute as individuals, collectively. That's a first. We took it on the road and tour-tested it, then recorded it. It's communal."

Thus the name of that record, Four Great Points (Quarterstick). The name is also in keeping with Mueller's obsession with nautical imagery, the four points being the compass directions. On it, they are the pirates of the sea, covering all corners of the globe and grabbing musical treasure. The eight songs are a peek at the world's bounty. With skeletal guitar lines, murky dub influences and rock-solid drumming, the band sprawls all over the map with dissonance, quiet grace, furious pounding and moments of genuine subtlety. Rock segments are fused with arty dub segments. Mesmerizing bass and barely audible vocals waft psychedelic. If you're scoring at home, it's Jesus Lizard meets Pink Floyd--and none of the shitty parts of either. Four Great Points is a greater acheivement than any of the band's previous releases.

"We used to record songs that were concieved and written entirely by one person, and with this one, every part was contributed by different members," says Mueller. "But we've always kept dub in the background. Those parts may or may not have been discernable on earlier releases. But I've had experience in a rap band before I played punk rock, and Doug does his own DJ thing. And so we fleshed that out together. In addition to the nonstandard songs, we put something you wouldn't hear on earlier releases, a song with Moog and a lot of studio tricks. It's not a huge step, but it's definitely different."

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