Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

A discontented kid will always bitch about his hometown. But there’s a special frustration that percolates through California’s Central Valley. Natural wonders loom in all directions, but—aside from Oklahoma-flat farmland, Motel 6’s, and clusters of live oaks reaching into the enormous sky—there’s almost nothing along this crease down the middle of California. Still, one can always count on the emergence of a few crapflowers, made all the more special in relief. Pavement and Grandaddy are the oft-cited road-paving grandfolks of the Central Valley indie scene, but Modesto’s Fiver has actually been plugging away since the early ’90s. That’s when singer/guitarist Dave Woody’s brainchild grew from a trio into its current quintet, which in 1998 released the cosmically stunning Jason Lytle–produced debut, Eventually Something Cool Will Happen. The problem is that what was fresh in 1998 is a little stale by the time six years and three albums have rolled by. Fiver’s fourth full-length, Let It All Fall Down, is indeed crusty around the edges, though there are still worthwhile bits to be found. Album opener “Last Song (First)” cleverly plays with the notion of outro as intro: Lasting only a minute and a half, it’s a pretty, Pinback-ish melody capped by trumpet sounds and Lauren Singleton’s spacey keyboards. And the next several tracks find Amy Metcalf’s bouncing bass work, Ryan Cossia’s military-flavored drum rolls, and Woody’s garbled, high-pitched lyrics coated in astro-fuzz to charming, if overly nostalgic, effect. But around Track 7, things turn from ambient to downright coma-inducing. The slow build and spare instrumentation of “It’s Your Funeral” come across as noodling fluff, untethered by the glumness of the song’s lyrics. And “That Town” could be a “Lodi” for shoegazers—“That town’s a waste/I thought I’d stay/10,000 days/It was OK”; it channels a similar desperation and boredom. Unfortunately, it also manages to project that boredom onto the listener. “They Hardly Know” is a second-half exception that finds Woody & Co. turning to early B-52’s-esque dance-space-punk. The song’s cymbal-driven crescendos are movie-montage-worthy, but that’s forgiven when Cossia twists the beat halfway through the tune. It might be a hint of things to come: Fiver’s recent relocation to Los Angeles could fuel the exploration of new sounds. Then again, though the climate may be better in El Lay, it remains to be seen whether a crapflower can thrive in the sand.—Anne Marson