Number 42

The Gerbils
"Are you Sleepy" (Hidden Agenda)
By Dan Strachota

Like their second-tier Elephant 6 brethren the Minders and Beulah, the Gerbils create entertaining nuggets of psych-pop fuzz. Neutral Milk Hotel horn-player extraordinaire Scott Spillane leads the Athens trio, singing in a nasally conversational tone that suggests a Louisiana-fried Mac McCaughan, meanwhile playing acid-drenched guitar that calls to mind both the Seeds and the Surfers. John D'Azzo and Will Westbrook, who assist both Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control during live shows, fill out the sound here with bass, drums, piano, and tape manipulations. Overall, the Gerbils are one of the most straightforward of the Elephant 6 bands - perhaps a wise tactic when one considers the wanky poze of their one experimental track, the instrumental "Wet Host." Still, the band knows how to borrow a neat trick from the Fab Four's "The Magical Mystery Tour"-ish voice that echoes. Spillane's spoken vocals in "Grin" adds a note to the proceedings that's both playful and ominous. Mostly though, the songs are just plain fun, with the kind of exuberance that too often goes missing today. "Ted Doesn't Mind" has a stuttering drum beat and fuzz-smothered cowbell that recall the synergy of "Box Elder," while "Fluid" has guitars that bubble like a witches' brew, tidal wave cymbal crashes, and goofy lyrics ("your nose smells like a note and your ears sound just like ears but your lips taste sweeter than the sugar in my spoon").