Yeah, we know: Corey Saathoff sounds like Jay Farrar. First impressions are important, but they're not everything. The former Jerkwater Junction frontman is obviously a big fan of the former Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt frontman, enough so that he's picked up a few vocal-phrasing and songwriting techniques. There are other tools in Saathoff's kit, however. Saathoff's new self-released CD EP, Troubling Times, leads off with "Full Speed Lobotomy," and after a couple of listens, the resemblance between this and half of the songs on R.E.M.'s Murmur seems more than a little coincidental. Again, though, it's not a matter of just studying another band's blueprint. Saathoff and his associates drench this song in a wash of intriguing sonic counterpoints all their own.
"Cryptic Eucalyptus" pulls a minimalist melody from the Nirvana school of song structure, but Saathoff adds a delightful twist in the long, seemingly repetitive instrumental section near the end. Each pass through the two alternating chords finds a slightly different rhythmic turn from the acoustic guitar and an equally small change in the lead-guitar melody. But he comes closest to finding his own voice on "Diamond Surprise," a catchy little jingle featuring a delicious keyboard line that imitates a country-music fiddle and a nearly insipid but irresistibly beautiful lead-guitar lick. The bridge turns from a lovely acoustic tone to a surprisingly aggressive harshness and then comes back to its roots. If Saathoff can find a way to make that connection more organic, he'll really have something.