Harvey Danger
Little By Little...



by Smoke Cartel USER (119 Reviews)
September 1st, 2006 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

This is by no means a manifesto. We don’t pretend to be the first band to spin a variation of the shareware distribution model. We love record labels and record stores. We buy lots of CDs and are committed to supporting independent music. We’re not a bunch of fake Marxists. We’re just trying to be smart capitalists so we can sustain our lives as musicians. This is an experiment. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the record. Everything else is secondary.

Many would have thought it unprecedented for an artist to release an entire album for free over the internet. After all, since the music industry loses millions of dollars to illegal downloads every year, one might’ve simply been shocked that a band would give away a piece of their own intellectual property; something they poured their blood, sweat, and tears into, for free. Over the internet. No strings attached. Personally, when I discovered that late-90s pop-rock icons Harvey Danger were doing this, I felt a mixture of surprise and confusion. Even after reading the band’s full reasons behind the release (which can be found at the following address: http://www.harveydanger.com/press/why.php), I wasn’t quite sure what to think. It’s certainly a step in the right direction; embracing digital music, that is, as it’s clearly the distribution method of the future.

Irregardless of whether or not I (or anyone else) thought this was a wise decision, it seems to have worked for Harvey Danger. A mere two months after the album, dubbed Little By Little…, was released via BitTorrent, it had been downloaded more than 100,000 times. In addition to this, the original first pressing of hard copies (complete with B-side bonus disc) distributed by Harvey Danger’s own Phonographic Records, had nearly sold out. Harvey Danger’s lasting appeal and popularity may come as a surprise to those who believe them to be merely a one hit wonder. Of course, there’s no doubting the fact that “Flagpole Sitta” from the band’s debut album, Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? wasn’t an international smash-hit, becoming not only the unofficial anthem of the raunchy laughs offered by American Pie, but also the theme song of UK TV comedy Peep Show. Of course, the song embedded itself into popular society much further than that, but, much like any other band to live off the supposed strength of one single, Harvey Danger were dismissed as nothing more than a group of kids with the ability to only garner their fifteen minutes of fame and be done.

Critics such as these will be blown away the minute Little By Little… begins it’s quirky brand of strained growth and beauty with “Wine, Woman, and Song.” The quaint piano, charming lyrics, and overall superb presentation of the song prove that not only have Harvey Danger grown up, they’re also capable of making damn good music. “Wine, Woman, and Song” may not contain the kooky pop hooks that you may come to expect from the band that wrote “Flagpole Sitta,” but it sets the mood for Little By Little…: maturity. Right away, it’s easy to tell that Harvey Danger have changed as performers as well. Vocalist Sean Nelson seems to have reached a comforting cross between Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson (of Blur and Suede fame respectively). Little By Little… could easily be described as what Britpop would be like had it originated in America, rather than the UK. Nelson may have grown up from the sing-song whine of his past (to an extent), but he still easily recalls the charisma of previous Harvey Danger works.

Similarly, multi-instrumentalist Jeff J. Lin has shown plenty of change while staying true to his musical roots. Lin’s guitar playing is especially impressive on Little By Little…. On songs such as “Cream and Bastards Rise,” we hear Lin employing subtly more complex techniques, infusing them into Harvey Danger’s music as nonchalantly as possible, almost to the point where all but the most astute listeners may not be able to tell any difference. “Cream and Bastards Rise,” Little By Little…’s first single, deservedly earned a place on Rolling Stone magazine’s Hot List, effectively ending Harvey Danger’s hiatus and heralding their return from obscurity. Outside of Lin’s versatile performance, Little By Little… is a rather boring album musically. This is especially unfortunate, because the quartet of Harvey Danger has additional support from a gang of musicians playing everything from the cello to trombone. The lack of variation means things pretty much fall flat on their face by mid-album. By the time you get to “Diminishing Returns,” the digital album’s closer, you may well be asleep.

While Little By Little… is neither a consistent enough or interesting enough to keep you listening from beginning to end, the quality of most songs individually is actually quite good. Little By Little… is a collection of decent to good songs that just don’t bode well together. I suppose it’s safe to say that Harvey Danger truly are a singles band. In short, is it as good as it could’ve been? No. Little By Little… is the painful sound of a group of artists trying to break free of it’s past, and try something new. If you can listen to it song-by-song, and not as a continuum, then I’m sure almost anyone can find something to like.

Note: This review is based on the original digital release of the album. The original physical Phonographic release contains an extra bonus. In 2006, the album was re-released by Kill Rock Stars, with different album art and a different track list. The date of the Kill Rock Stars release was July 25, 2006.

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user ratings (28)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 1st 2006


The Secondcoming. By the end, pop rock will be its own website. Good review.

The Jungler
September 1st 2006


hmmm, sounds intresting. Good one Mr. Kat.
I don't like 90's pop rock at all really, but this sounds pretty good.

Zesty Mordant
September 1st 2006


"Flagpole Sitta" is/was a brilliant song, so that means good review. Maybe I'll check this out.

September 1st 2006


I like "Flagpole Sitta" if it's the song I'm thinking of, I should check out this record.

The Sludge
April 27th 2007


I'm not sick
But I'm not well
It's so hot.
Cuz I'm in helllllll.

Good review, haven't heard much else by the band other than Flagpole Sitta, but I might now.This Message Edited On 04.27.07

Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

i love this album. moral centralia ftw

Digging: Grimes - Art Angels

November 9th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

great great review

the rating's completely off but whateves

Digging: Toby Fox - Undertale Soundtrack

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