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The best kept secret in music


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Hi, Everything's Great - 2003
Hey, Everything's Fine - 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


Highwaymen en route though the American Weekend. Big Star’s bastard sons. A Fender Telecaster band with enough hooks to fill the late 60s and what’s left of the 70s. Those guys who slept on your floor before lightin’ out for the territories again. The ones who took lots of pictures. Who want nothing to do with impersonal hotel rooms and overwrought songs with half time breakdowns. Who can turn loss on its head. Pie-eyed optimists, they’re the band that’s always smiling up on stage. Jangle jangle and just enough twang.

The California sound. That’s what we’re talking about. And it’s got nothing to do with that particular brand of punk music that has become associated with Orange County as of late. No, the boys from Orange who call themselves Limbeck follow in the true pantheon of Southern California rock and roll. Brian Wilson established it as soon as he started writing songs that sound like Pacific sunsets look – the saddest happy music in the world. Byrds melodies, Gram Parsons’ Cosmic Americana, Neil Young at Zuma, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “groovy, Western-sky music,” and, specially, Tom Petty’s coming-of-age-in-LA power pop are all part of the lineage. Around here, at Westward expansionism’s end-of-the-line, you gotta take a freeway to get to the beaches and canyons. We don’t wait around for nostalgia to come to us – things feel nostalgic the first time around.

Limbeck drives all these sun-drenched highways and byways, combining the dusty bramble of country-tinged rock with the best of propulsive power pop. But they’ve got another card up their sleeves. The band records in Kansas with that master of the Lawrence sound, Ed Rose. This not only puts them in touch with the Midwestern bittersweet pop grandeur of groups like Kill Creek, but lets them take a proverbial step back. Limbeck looks to their sunshine homeland from the outside, whether in the Black Lodge motel-turned-recording studio in Eudora, KS or while crossing the old U.S. of A. in a van. Like their music, these guys are always in motion, and the scenery moves by fast.

Vocalist/guitarist Robb MacLean and guitarist Patrick Carrie, the group’s South County boys, first played together in a high school joke band – acting as the bridge between the cheerleaders, teachers and outcasts by writing what Robb calls, “funny songs about school.” Bassist Justin Entsminger (“Justin’s always losing,”) and drummer Matt Stephens are from North County, and it was right after high school that they all crossed paths and formed the band. With a name that pays tribute to the ill-fated 1978 Milwaukee Brewers World Series champ Don Limbeck, the band seemed destined to find it’s musical roots in another decade. A simpler time with great ballplayers
and kids who were ready to rock. “I know me and Matt definitely were raised on the Beach Boys,” explains Patrick. “Matt discovered a lot of his dad’s music collection. His dad’s got a lot of good vinyl.”

Limbeck’s full-length debut, This Chapter Is Called Titles came early for such a young outfit. But with unstoppable power punk handed down from the Lookout Records greats, This Chapter was an amazing album in its own right – an outstanding entry into the genre. It just wasn’t fully the Limbeck that
Limbeck were meant to be.

Call it serendipity, but a stroke of bad luck actually helped launch the group into the pantheon of downright great rock and roll bands. “I lost my whole big, giant CD wallet,” says Robb, “so I just started listening to the radio, like the classic rock stations, and buying records from the thrift store for 35 cents.” And so, relegated to music of the past, Limbeck’s sound took a serious step in its evolution. The result? Hi, Everything’s Great – a country power pop album with the sincerity and propulsive good vibes of Brendan Benson, the sunny outlook of the Tyde and the grit of Lucero. It’s as raucous and original as the Replacement’s debut and casts Limbeck as the Weakerthan’s warm weather counterparts.

It would be a mistake to call Hi, Everything’s Great a road album. Actually, it’s a record about places and memories, and the people who inhabit them. “I take a lot of pictures on the road that’ll remind me of stuff that’ll happen and will keep my mind in one place when I’m writing,” considers Robb. “It helps me a lot. If there’s a picture I really like a lot, sometimes it’ll inspire me to write a song or sometimes I’ll just use it as a tool to remind me of everything that happened.” The effect is that audiences get the same feeling via the song – an entire time and place, the details of something that really occurred. Looking through the post card photos that accompany the album as it’s liner notes, you get a sense of just what is going on here: a snow covered truck stop, the mellow streets of San Diego, Orange at night from a hilltop, an empty front porch in Ohio, sunflares over the desert, bicycles chained in a parking lot. This is America from the inside out and damn, these guys kno