Nominee – 1996 6th Annual LA Music Awards
Overpass grew out of the California punk band Slovenly, which recorded for the seminal SST label in the 1980s. When Slovenly recorded its last album in 1992, three members — guitarist and singer Tom Watson, bassist Scott Ziegler, and ex-Saccharine Trust drummer Rob Holzman — decided to attempt a more cohesive, interactive approach to writing music as a group. The group’s self-titled debut was released on SST subsidiary New Alliance, with a follow-up, Manhattan (Beach), completed in 1994.
Somehow, Overpass was always going to be a bit lost in the Pavement slipstream, even if the two bands had been around for more or less the same period. While the Stockton group hit the critical coverage big time and even flirted with a mainstream breakthrough, Overpass found its own little niche for similarly bemused takes on things, Tom Watson’s speak-singing voice easy to listen to as he sang a fair amount of cryptically strung together lines. On Manhattan (Beach), the trio benefits from the combination of Mayo Thompson’s unsurprisingly fine production and Eddie Ashworth’s crisp and clear engineering — without sounding like a Steve Albini production per se, it’s still a fairly live listen. Watson’s ear for a rhyme at odd points prevents his words from drifting away, while his guitar playing, if often secondary to the rhythm work, adds odd fillips and riffs to the proceedings. His overdubbed exchanges with himself on “Down the Drain” are some of the best moments on the album, starting the song with a queasy acid rock energy that his singing renders into a quizzical romp and stomp. It really is the combination of Scott Ziegler on bass and Rob Holzman on drums that’s worth the listening, though, recalling at points such fine bands as Pell Mell, keeping an easy beat with energy. The rubber-band twang from Ziegler on the herky-jerk brawl of “Special ‘D'” and Holzman’s low-key but fluid approach throughout are two of the many reasons to enjoy the band’s merry perk-ups and kick-yer-heels-up turns. Manhattan (Beach) may not be deathless, but in its own way it captures a sound, a time, and a place with just the right appeal all around.