Bridget Cross, vocals, bass guitar, Fender rhodes electric piano
Phil Krauth, drums, mellotron
Mark Robinson, guitar, keyboards, Fender rhodes, mellotron
Bridget Cross, vocals, bass guitar, piano
George Kuhar, guitar, keyboards
Jordan Strudel, drums
TRACKS 1-7 RECORDED BY
on McCann Corner, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
December, 2005 through May, 2007
DRUMS/MELLOTRON RECORDED BY
at Zippah!, Brookline, Massachusetts, USA
TRACKS 8-10 PRODUCED
AND RECORDED BY
in Austin, Texas, USA
PHOTOGRAPHY AND CALLIGRAPHY
Mark Robinson, Teen-Beat Graphica
All songs written by Bridget Cross (BMI)
"As influential as Unrest (and band leader Mark Robinson's TeenBeat label) were to early- to mid-'90s DIY indie pop, they're not a group that gets championed much these days. It's a real shame actually, as records like Imperial ff.rr. and Perfect Teeth sound as good to me today as Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted or Sebadoh's III. After the group disbanded in 1994 the members would continue to release various individual projects on TeenBeat, though nothing could touch Unrest when they were at their peak. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear the new eponymous full-length by Maybe It's Reno, the nom de plume of former Unrest bassist Bridget Cross (later of Air Miami and an early member of Velocity Girl), and a quick scan of the liners reveal that her former bandmates Robinson and drummer Phil Krauth are accompanying her on the first seven tracks. I'd be blowing smoke if I tried to paint this album as a reunion of sorts, but damn, there are so many moments that could easily be mistaken as Unrest outtakes. Album opener "Baby's Lost in Tracks" could easily sound at home on the B.P.M. collection (and even an early Factory Records release), Cross' crystalline vocals carried by the spacious counter-play between her circular bass melodies and Krauth's breezy, double-time ride cymbal and finally dissolving into a hypnotic, minute-and-a-half wash of Robinson's chiming guitars.
Like Unrest, much of the Maybe It's Reno album is rooted in pop minimalism, only here additional instrumentation like electric piano and synthesizer accent and intersect Robinson's layered guitars in songs like "Gravestones and Christmas Trees" and "Sugarloaf Mountain," the latter track slowly fading out with the inclusion of a drum machine. And while the atmosphere of these songs sound wonderfully familiar and comfortable, Cross makes plenty of stylistic divergences, reminding us that this is her project, after all. Joined by Basin Street's George Kuhar and Jordan Strudel for the remaining three tracks, there's no holding back in songs like "Lonestar" and the punked-up "Drunk Pilot," while the lovely "December" finds Cross accompanied by the skeletal chords of a piano. Tacked on at the end are bonus versions and reprises of "Sugarloaf Mountain" and "Days Like Cups." If you can't already tell, Maybe It's Reno started a bit of a TeenBeat revival for me this week, now if I could only find that old TeenBeat mousepad that I bought at Arlington's Go Records all those years ago!"
- Gerald Hammill, Other Music
"The lineup on the first seven tracks of Maybe It's Reno's 2008 debut may give old-time indie-pop buffs a little jolt: it's singer/bassist Bridget Cross, guitarist Mark Robinson and drummer Phil Krauth - exactly the same personnel who comprised the classic lineup of Unrest, the DC outift that recorded Imperial f.f.r.r., Perfect Teeth and B.P.M., and ruled the indie-pop roost from 1991 until their 1994 breakup. Reno doesn't quite pick up where Unrest left off, though: that was basically Robinson's band, and this time Cross wrote and sings everything - a lot of these songs sound like voice-and-bass sketches gracefully fleshed out by Robinson and Krauth, who both played the dusty-sounding Mellotron that colors a lot of the album. (The last three tracks were recorded without them.)
Still, there's a close stylistic resemblance to her loping, emotive Unrest showcases, "Vibe Out!" and "June" - Reno's closing voice-and-piano meditation "December" is effectively a sequel to "June." There are hints of Unrest's experimental textural pieces in, for instance, the abstract keyboard instrumental "Lullaby for Sophie," or the way "Feathers and Wings" concludes with loops of handclaps. Most of Cross's songs here hint at some kind of emotional stasis, and so do the arrangements -- the songs hover in place for a minute or two at a time, and sometimes follow their own tracks in a circle. The pleasure of the record, though, is hearing the weary, gliding tone of Cross's voice, and her deep-pulsing bass; it's good to have them back."
- Douglas Wolk, eMusic
"It sounds like someone's typing on a keyboard or opening a carton of milk in the background of "December," the last song on Maybe It's Reno's self-titled debut. That mundanity underscores a heavy mood: The group - essentially ex-Unrest bassist Bridget Cross, plus friends - revisits the death of Cross' father, a personal tragedy first set to music in "June" from Unrest's 1992 album, Imperial F.F.R.R. Cross appeared on Fugazi's The Argument in 2001, but sadly, she's lately been missing from the indie-rock scene she helped found. And Maybe It's Reno isn't going to recapture her admittedly subterranean glory. But the disc is messy and tender in a modestly gorgeous way: The first seven tracks constitute an Unrest reunion of sorts, with former bandmates Mark Robinson and Phil Krauth contributing to some chilled, whispery pop that picks up pretty much where the trio left off in the '90s. The last three tracks - including the aforementioned "December" - are the kicker, though. Captured in a different studio with a different lineup, the lo-fi scrappiness of "Drunk Pilot" is an injection of lightning, and "Lone Star" showcases Cross' sugar-crystal croon before cribbing liberally from Joy Division's "Novelty." And then the piano-laced "December" wraps things up with a morbid sense of closure that erodes and evaporates into nothingness. Cross seems to be fading from the music scene with a whimper - but at least it's a lovely one."
- Jason Heller, The Onion (A.V. Club)