announcement on The Common Space
Geoff Kessell, out working his latest long-player, "Songs for a Caustic Guitar," is a songwriter who combines power-pop and moody folk rock, blending it with a wry and tart lyrical bent. His earlier work, propelled by the snappiest drum machines since Ultravox, can also be found on a sampler of his past cassettes, called "Musiac," a CD which highlights a half-dozen years of limited-released tapes, live cuts and assorted exclusive tracks. - Thomas Crone
article in The
Riverfront Times - 10.11.2000
CAUSTIC HEAVEN - On Songs for a Caustic Guitar, St. Louis popster Geoff Kessell delivers witty lyrics wrapped in good guitar work.
This city has its share of hacks who call themselves pop songwriters, those
who maliciously rhyme "bad" with "sad" and "love" with "above" (when they
should be rhyming it with "shove"). It's sad, and it makes us feel bad.
But others understand and appreciate a good rhyme-turn, and one of the
best hasn't gotten nearly his due, mainly because he seldom plays out anywhere
other than Borders and, until last year, was saddled with an all-consuming
job as co-owner of Whiz Bam! video. His name is Geoff Kessell, and over
the course of three full-lengths, he's gradually blossomed.
Those who frequented Whiz Bam! knew Geoff as the grumpy one with an encyclopedic knowledge of video, and those who ended up talking to him at any length soon learned that his mental encyclopedia contained an equally vast music section; his understanding and appreciation of guitar pop is amazing and refined (on his list of classics, according to his press packet, are the Zombies' Odessey & Oracle, Love's Forever Changes, the Byrds' Younger than Yesterday and the Who's great early pinnacle, Sell Out). You can hear it on all three of his releases: Pop-Gun, Instant Karma Sutra and the recent, fantastic Songs for a Caustic Guitar.
Kessell combines the raw energy of early Elvis Costello with the bitter wit of late-'70s Graham Parker and the patience of classic John Hiatt. On A Caustic Guitar, a four-track recorded release featuring Kessell on acoustic guitar with augmented overdubs, he shines, especially on the remarkable "Landlocked," a song that captures the essence of St. Louis; its tone is grumpy middle-of-the-summer why-the-hell-is-it-so-humid?: "Landlocked in every direction/drydocked with no protection/Mother Nature's unwilling slaves/riding the crest of the crashing heatwaves." The other gem (among many) is the should-be classic "The Big Apology." On it, Kessell proves that he can fiddle with structure and style and understands how to turn a cookie-cutter sentiment into something unique. - Randall Roberts, Music Editor
for May 5th, 2000 appearance at Borders Lincoln Park - Chicago, Illinois
A special appearance featuring St. Louisan Geoff Kessell's unique brand of guitar pop. If you like Lloyd Cole, Bob Dylan, Michael Penn or Richard Barone, don't miss this. - Marc Moder
on CitySearch St. Louis, 1999
Consider that Geoff Kessell would like John Wesley Harding to produce his next CD. That should give you some sense of where he's coming from musically. Namely, a world of bright, literate pop that might include kids listening to mix-tapes of Aimee Mann, World Party and Dream Syndicate. (A better world that would be, we might add.)
To date, Kessell's released two self-released cassettes, which feature a bent towards power pop and psychedelics in differing measures. There's also a CD in the pipes, "Songs for a Caustic Guitar", that should be released as soon as all-important funds become available.
Kessell is now playing out, in select coffeeshops and clubs. - Thomas Crone
It's rare when an artist can give me chills lyrically and melodically, but Geoff Kessell's music manages to do both on a regular basis. From his earliest tapes to his current, more mature work, Kessell has grown into a formidable talent, melding the rapier wit of an Elvis Costello or Graham Parker with the quirky tunefulness of Lindsey Buckingham or Buddy Holly into a sound that is truly special. - Mark Easter (music columnist; co-author of Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium)
of "instant karma-sutra" from The
Riverfront Times; November, 1997
BAM! JAM: Geoff Kessell has a brand-new cassette album, Instant Karma-Sutra. The first song, appropriately titled "Welcome to the Beginning," sounds like the Charlatans U.K. produced by Joe Meek and supported by the "Taxmen." The lyrics duke it out with the production before dissolving in a storm of sonic fuzz. Though far from punk, other tunes are noticeably harder-rocking than Kessell's earlier songs, mixing riffs and quirky arrangements with New Wave snippiness. - Jordan Oakes
of "pop-gun" from The Riverfront
Times; Jan. 3-9, 1996 (re-printed in Yellow Pills # 8)
NO. 1 WITH A BULLET: Geoff Kessell's music gives his life it's very own soundtrack. Pop-Gun, a collection of his songs from 1988-93 is a treat for those who appreciate tunes that, in the absence of a big-budget studio crutch, can stand on their own two feet. The lack of production clarity, in fact, adds to the distinctiveness of each track.
And it doesn't hurt that Kessell's album collection is manifest in his own music. A lot of his songs contain direct references to his many influences -- sort of musical thank-yous -- but Kessell stops well short of borrowing more than he can pay back. With its jangly guitars that go from raga to riches, "Don't Let Them Ride" is a ringer for the Byrds' "Eight Miles High." Replicating that band's trademark sound isn't easy -- pop groups have been trying to get it right for years -- but the song does more than string the listener along. It has a pop melody worthy of Matthew Sweet. The track, incidentally, is epilogued with the complementary "Interlude 1 (Legendary Plaid)," whose ringing riff comes directly from (again) the Byrds -- this time "Feel a Whole Lot Better." (The album is rife with such instrumental interludes.)
"The Devil's Little Reminder" is a sermon set to a tidy Marshall Crenshaw-like tune; "You Make It So Easy" evokes the Monkees' "Daydream Believer"; the heartless "Dead Valentine's Day" welds a break-up lyric to a Bowie-ish ditty. Other songs are more spare, but just as immediate. The acoustic "As You Do," for instance, is equal parts Dylan and (Kessell's idol above all idols) Graham Parker. "Nothing But Time" sounds like an even more leisurely "Pleasant Valley Sunday"; ironically, "Generic Song" has Kessell's own brand of push-and-pull melody, mixed with a pastiche of Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner."
Pop-Gun's 18 songs are a treat for those who love great pop home recordings in the tradition of everyone from R. Stevie Moore to Guided by Voices. - Jordan Oakes
notice of "pop-gun" from The
Riverfront Times; October 25 - 31, 1995
WHIZ KID: Geoff Kessell is planning to make a collection of his own music available. Fans of Mitch Easter, early Velvet Crush et al. should appreciate Kessell's boyish, quirky pop songs. Kessell stresses that the latest tunes were recorded a couple of years ago, and that, production-wise, the recordings are very much basement tapes. Still, an advance listen reveals some clever songs that twist and turn melodically but don't suffer from a lack of big-budget clarity. - Jordan Oakes
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