Glue Mill – You & Me

Glue Mill
You & Me

With the number of home-based solo artists proliferating, and with the sophistication of the tools available to these folks, it has become hard to keep up and hard to differentiate one from another. One way to make yourself stand out, though, has nothing to do with the music itself and has everything to do with the packaging.

Glue Mill – aka Ken Rothermich – has certainly put in the effort to make his CD stand out from the pack in terms of look. What you get with the CD is an elegant cover design and beautiful, clever little booklet that shows off Rothermich’s graphic-design training and irreverent approach. Its handmade feel and its clean, simple layouts evince the same aesthetic as does the music, in any case. The music’s keyboard- and guitar-driven pop tunes lean tilt towards They Must Be Giants but don’t quite capture that other band’s mania. The wild horns on “Empty Calories” and the sometimes tongue-in-cheek musings elsewhere might even point to some Squirrel Nut Zippers pages from Glue Mill’s playbook.

On the short track “Pretty,” the acoustic guitar and the buzzing keyboards don’t seem to be leading us anywhere, but at a little over a minute in length it may have been inserted as a way station between the first and second halves of the album. Its successor “Ohio, Meet Me Halfway” leads with the lines “Breaking up with my town” and has a lyrical playfulness around the theme of leaving one place for another. It’s a little light on musical ideas maybe, but considering the artist’s solo modus operandi, it’s forgivable.

“Monday Manifesto” might make a good kids’ song: a little kitschy, repetitive, and vibrant. “Positively” gets a little experimental with its backwards-sounding background beat and its wind-instrument (flute?) overlay. “Saturday Afternoon in the Emergency Room” might be trying for a bit of an epic feel, in contrast, but the transition from verse to chorus feels choppy and abrupt – maybe a little less refined than it’s meant to.

The title track “You & Me” picks up the pace and feels more developed. The track’s steady electronic backbeat gets the song moving and never varies, except when it drops out for the staccato vocal delivery during the bridge. The synth parts come as close as any to being the pop hook that the CD is looking for. Perhaps nothing on Glue Mill’s CD quite hits the heights of Rothermich’s last band Great Shakes, but you have to give him props for continuing with music and getting this release together.