IHA GOES SOFTER ON SOLO
Hartford Courant review
February 12, 1998
Thanks to Sachin for sending us this review˙
James Iha has long played with George Harrison to Billy Corgan's Lennon-McCartney stranglehold on Smashing Pumpkins songwriting. The Pumpkins guitarist has been able to get in a track or two here and there, but generally the group has been the plaything of bald-headed Billy.
Iha emerges from that shadow on his quite different solo album. In contrast to his slashing guitar on the Pumpkins' recent world tour, he retreats to a quieter, acoustic-based set of love songs.
He claims an inspiration in the grass-roots singer-songwriters of the early '70s, the "Harvest"-era Neil Young and peak Jackson Browne. Still, both the tunefulness and limitations of his voice suggest another figure forever in the shadow of bigger rockers, Nils Lofgren.
Like Lofgren, who played with Young and toured for years with Bruce Springsteen, Iha is able to turn out likable melodies and solid songcraft. At the same time, there's an innate thinness to the production. Recordered largely himself in his basement, Iha plays as if he doesn't seek to disturb anybody upstairs.
He manages to lure in a few Chicago celebrities to help out, though. Among them are Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy Wretzky and fill-in drummer Matt Walker, but also Nina Gordon from Veruca Salt singing harmony and Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, who runs the Chicago label Scratchie with Iha.
The touches of guitar and pedal steel give a nice rural feel to the songs, as if this were some long-lost Pure Praire Leauge album.
Is there an audience among his alt-rock fans for simple, straightforward love songs? Even Pumpkins completists might have a tough time with this valentine. After all, the world is a vampire, right?
Return to James' Page