The Phantom Tollbooth
Detached and Connected
Artist: Carbon 14
Label: Indie
Length: 5 tracks/21.23 minutes

This is an ambitious band. Having secured a sponsorship deal with surfer-clothing label Kangaroo Poo, they've wasted no time and invested those funds in a 5 track EP recorded with the help of delirious? sound man Paul Burton. The sound is old-fashioned alterna-rock, with the vocals of an English Eddie Vedder in the form of Jim Jones, and plenty of distorted and wah-ed guitar, but with some punchy melodies and a fair pinch of atmosphere to keep it all sounding fresh.

In their cynicism about modern society, Carbon 14 are very clear about their own need for redemption. The EP is neatly divided, with the first two tracks questioning the hypocrisy of pop culture, and the latter two talking of the solace to be found in God (strangely referred to as "the great Pyromaniac," presumably in reference to the image of God's love as an all consuming fire), with an interlude between the two in the form of the lyrically minimalist "Life":

The closing track, "Invited," is a slower, piano-led number. It gives Jones a chance to show a more delicate side to his vocals, but unfortunately they are a little overbearing on the simple backing.

Carbon 14 wear their influences on their sleeves, and could afford to work harder on cutting their own path, but to be fair to them, there is a conviction in their music which gives it an authentic touch. The attention is just beginning.

James Stewart (8/14/99)