Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious musician known as Robert Schneider,
who traveled far and wide from the mountains of Denver to settle in the
plains of Lexington, Kentucky. The gods had blessed him with the gift
of melody and many were the fine records he had made, from the Apples
in Stereo catalog to his many productions for the Elephant 6 Recording
Co. On reaching his new home, Schneider assembled a crew of argonauts
from the local pop group Big Fresh, and once in the company of sound
manipulator Robert Beatty from Hair Police, they embarked on many
adventures while huddled around a microphone in Schneider's garage….
OK, enough with the Homer parody. (D'oh!) The album resulting from
those garage sessions, 010, moves in the same fuzz-pop orbit as
the Apples, minus the spit and polish. The rougher edges of Ulysses'
music are mirrored by a darker lyrical outlook that's evident from the
first song, "Push You Away": "Inside a pissed-off prostitute/ I try to
get my mind off you/ ... I want to push you away, you're too good for
The muse of melody hasn't abandoned Schneider, but there's a definite
slapdash feeling on 010 that starts with the title (guess how
many songs are on the album) and extends to the intentionally
demo-quality recording process. Somewhere around track 008, "Castles in
Spain," the realization dawns that you could sing several Pavement
songs to these chords ("She Believes" and "Loretta's Scars," for
starters) and that Schneider is rhyming "Spain" with "rain" and "vain." Inane?
Some patented "doo-doot-doos" on album-closer "Her Silver Veil" offer
hope for redemption, and so do Schneider's lyrics ("We're hoping for a
better day/ Though it seems so far away"). I'm afraid, though, that
for all but the fanatics, Ulysses will be scuttled on the rocks. The
best songs on 010 at first seem like a direct hit to the
indie-pop, shambling-rock nerve center, but hold them up next to
Schneider's career highlights the heartbreaking beauty of the
Apples' "High Tide," from Fun Trick Noisemaker, or the ambition
of Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control and it's like
comparing a cardboard stage set to a real city skyline. Schneider's
talent is too big for such a small-scale album.