Saturday, September 5, 2009

1+2 er... One Plus Two - Watercolor Haircut EP

As a young lad, I became aware of a band called REM. They had put out a record called "Murmur" and they were from somewhere called Athens. I was in 5th grade - what did I know? I read about them before I heard them. They were the champions of something called "College Radio" along with another band called the Replacements. As it turns out, there was a lot going on in a lot of places in 1983 and the South was one of them. One band that came out of this frenzy was One Plus Two.

One Plus Two (or 1 + 2 - even they couldn't seem to decide - see above) was from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Their self-released 7" EP, Watercolor Haircut, came out in the late summer or fall of 1984. They went on to produce a demo tape, a 12" EP and a full-length LP, both on Homestead Records, Gerald Cosloy's pre-Matador label. For the EP, the band consisted of Holden Richards (guitar), Maryclyde Bridgers (drums), Eric Peterson (bass) and Andy McMillan (vocals). After the Watercolor Haircut EP was recorded, Peterson left to join the dBs and McMillan started Snatches of Pink with Michael Rank. They were replaced by Susan Kent on guitar and Rob (not Rod) Stewart on bass. Of the 6 people involved, it seems like Holden Richards was the driving force in the band, mostly because all the songs are credited to him.

The record consists of 4 songs. All are great examples of the sound that defined this new genre of music. I haven't said the word "jangle" yet but it's going to be hard not to do it. "Look Away" has shades of REM, Let's Active and Guadalcanal Diary. "Much More" starts off in the same way as those bands but gets a little punchier in the chorus. Probably this was pretty good fun live. "Over You" is another good one. The production (by Eric Peterson the bassist and Wes Lachot, who now runs Overdub Lane Recording in Durham, North Carolina) is good, actually, but it makes me wonder what could have been if they had been thrown in the studio with more equipment and experience. The slightly muted sound is very much like REM's at the time. But there's some potential for some seriously shimmering guitar that didn't quite come out. The last song, "Pictures" is not bad, but for me it's a step below the other three. Not quite as developed maybe but still not bad. Truth be told, I love this record too much to say anything bad about it.

When I came across across a copy of the Watercolor Haircut EP it proved to be a great artifact of American College Radio. Not just because of the music either. The copy had been delivered by Holden to a magazine editor / reviewer / writer named Steve. Steve (unless Steve's no longer with us he's got no excuse for letting this out of his collection) was asked to listen to it, hopefully review it well and send a copy back to 1+2 so they could add it to their ever-expanding press kit. You're so interested by now that you're wondering what was in the press kit? Luckily, I have scanned in everything that was stuffed in with this record when I found it. I guess it proves that Steve got it a little bit later than some others.

At some point during their Homestead stint, IRS Records (naturally...) put them on the MTV show/commercial they had called The Cutting Edge. I don't know what happened but One Plus Two didn't make it like REM did. Or even Let's Active or Guadalcanal Diary. But for me, this record is a moment frozen in time. Googling "Watercolor Haircut" will get you back about 10 active, non-ebay, links. It's almost like this record didn't exist. But it certainly does.

Holden Richards is still active in music. He has a website here. It's late and the dog is wondering why I'm not tucking him into bed so you'll have to do the legwork on the rest of the band.

Someone was kind enough to rip the Homestead LP, Once In A Blue Moon.