Review Summary: Never to be a classic, this self-titled EP still adds to Mike Kinsella's record of making quality music.
Taking the risk of sounding a bit fan-boyish, Mike Kinsella is a musical genius. In his 20 years of being a part of the Chicago indie scene he has taken part in some of the most influential bands, from Cap’n Jazz to Owen. After the dissolution of Cap’n Jazz, Kinsella kept playing with his brother and former band-mate Tim in the experimental indie rock band Joan of Arc. However, he had yet to be in a band that was truly his own; something that would put him in the front and give him room to shine. While many know about the short lived American Football, not many know that before them there was The One Up Downstairs. OUD was even shorter lived, only lasting long enough to record three songs, which would not see the light of day until 2006.
Their self-titled EP showcases the more pop-oriented side of Kinsella while retaining the experimentation of his former bands. Upon first listen, you can hear the intricate melodies and somewhat messy performance style that Cap’n Jazz was known for, but with better vocals and a more controlled feel. Opener “Champagne” starts off slow with a pretty guitar melody provided by Allen Johnson. Steve Johnson and David Johnson keep the song moving without overdoing it, but providing just enough to keep things interesting. While the song is over five minutes it never gets boring as it completely changes about two-thirds of the way through, giving it a fresh feel with every listen.
Being the only fast-paced song on the record, “Rememories” has a quick, catchy melody and fun interplay between the Allen brothers. With the addition of Steve Lamos’ bouncy drum beat and all-over-the-place style, the song unleashes a lot of energy without becoming stale or cliché. Kinsella’s vocals are sparse throughout most of the song, but it’s the instrumentation that makes this song good.
The instrumental “Franco the Bull” ends the EP with something very reminiscent to the instrumentals heard on American Football’s releases. Lamos provides a groovy beat as David drives the song with subtle bass lines that don’t overshadow Allen’s guitar. Featuring the signature detuned guitar that Kinsella’s bands are famous for, Allen provides a very full sound while not having to use a whole lot in the way of effects or layers.
While a song like “Franco the Bull” is good, the fact that it sounds like a bunch of loops make it boring after a few listens. At only two minutes it sounds longer than it actually is as it just drones on without change. In addition, “Rememories” is a great song, but it could have included Kinsella’s vocals a bit more. “Champagne” is the only song that incorporates everything that is good about this EP, with soothing vocals, intricate instrumentals, and earnest lyrics. I do not fault The One Up Downstairs for this as it seems that this was a rush job with no thoughts of the future. But that’s where American Football makes up for the faults of this band. This EP will never be considered a classic, but it does make for a good footnote in Mike Kinsella’s musical history.