Copyright 2003 The Hartford Courant Company
Hartford Courant (Connecticut)

May 8, 2003 Thursday, STATEWIDE
Bill McGarvey
Thievery Records

Note to Wes Anderson: Check out the new album from Bill McGarvey, former lead singer of Valentine Smith. Like Anderson's films ("Bottle Rocket,"Rushmore"), it is sweet though never naive, nostalgic without being sentimental.

McGarvey cut the record in his apartment in Hoboken, N.J.; according to the liner notes, it was "recorded in the kitchen, mixed in the living room." But make no mistake: This isn't the work of an amateur. McGarvey is a superb songwriter. The album is filled with pop gems that manage to sound both familiar and new. A song like "That's What You Get" may bring to mind the Jayhawks, but it has a flavor all its own.

The songs are expertly arranged, full of surging horns and great Byrds-style guitar riffs. The lyrics are often cheeky and playful: "Standing Next to Gloria Steinem" is a charming account of running into you-know-who on the subway. But McGarvey doesn't shy away from darker subjects. His songs about failed love can be quite biting. On "Now," he sings: "It's over now, take your bows. An empty house, your finest hour." Ouch. Butthanks to McGarvey's radiant melodies, these songs are never dour. This isn't a bitter album. Just occasionally bittersweet.


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