In 2092 a noted anthropologist will publish The Flannel and the Fader: Alt-Country Archetypes in America
, the definitive study of Midwestern twang culture. Until then we'll just have to speculate why fusions of Neil Young, the Byrds and R.E.M. continue to spill out from Nebraska to Ohio. In Iowa City, the Death Ships
squeeze all the imaginative sparks from the form. Songwriter and singer Dan Maloney tunes his voice to the pigeons cooing outside his working-stiff-apartment window, his band vaults from pretty drone to prettier piano pop, and "like a dreamer without a dream, a schemer without a scheme," they all find reveries in landlocked malaise. The Death Ships' melancholy is pure country, its rhythms are pure rock and its willingness to take risks sets the band quite apart.