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Los Angeles Times

POP MUSIC REVIEW:Saying Hello to New Band, Major Label: Mike Martt leaves behind his underground days to join the Low and Sweet Orchestra, which recently released its debut album, 'Goodbye to All That.'
by SARA SCRIBNER Los Angeles Times
  Mike Martt has been in jail, on the streets and ready to throw it all away. A veteran of the colorful L.A. bands Thelonious Monster and Tex & the Horseheads, Martt is such a fixture of the hardscrabble local underground that the idea of his having a legitimate, major-label record deal seems almost preposterous. But here he is, the lead singer of the Low and Sweet Orchestra, delivering gruff, experienced words over lilting, spaghetti-western-inspired ballads and rootsy Celtic hoedowns on the group's recently released debut album, "Goodbye to All That," on Interscope.Martt can hardly believe it. "After Thelonious Monster broke up," says Martt , tucked into a booth at Musso & Frank, "I was just doing shows at the Shamrock for free drinks. I was very strung-out."But then Martt got clean, along with his friend and fellow Thelonious Monster alumnus Zander Schloss. In 1993, Schloss asked Martt to join his new band, the Low and Sweet Orchestra. (Originally called the Sweet and Low Orchestra, it changed its name after the maker of the artificial sweetener threatened legal action.)
   A former member of the Circle Jerks and a film-score composer who worked on "Repo Man" and "Sid and Nancy," Schloss originally wanted the group to conjure soundtrack-oriented music a la Ennio Morricone. The roster also includes actor Dermot Mulroney ("Copycat," "How to Make an American Quilt"), his brother Kieran Mulroney, former Pogues accordionist James Fearnley and hard-rock veterans Tom Barta and Will Hughes.To Schloss, there was one element missing: the kind of singer who could balance the sweetness of the music with irony and gritty reality. "It had to be Mike ," says Schloss, sitting next to his partner. "He writes the truest lyrics." The debut album is a testament to the bandleader's vision. Nodding to the Pogues, Bob Dylan and the Band, "Goodbye" boasts an unlikely mix of swelling, heartfelt accordion, jangling mandolin, bittersweet cello, warm acoustic guitar--and Martt's road-hard words. Martt looks to his checkered past to conjure songs about lost love, remembered friendships and starting over. In "A Nail Won't Fix a Broken Heart," he realizes the futility of trying to numb pain with drugs."Identified, Detained and Inspected" recounts his first teenage encounter with the law. A working-person's Leonard Cohen with a whiskey-honed rasp reminiscent of former Pogue Shane MacGowan, Martt offers heartbroken stories that brace themselves on a dogged determination to survive."There's a weird optimism that drives the band," Schloss says. "We've been through hell and come out the other side, so what's depressing to other people is gleefully optimistic to us."That attitude is a progression from Martt's early, furious political-punk days and Schloss' stint with the Circle Jerks. But Schloss says the fire comes through, even if the source is a "dinky little mandolin." "The intensity is not in the loudness and aggression, it's in the emotional depth of where we're coming from," he explains. "This is a radical movement, to shed all the volume and wear our hearts and emotionson our sleeves."
Los Angeles Times
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