Subtract about 15 minutes from Try To Be Here, and Jeff Caudill’s latest full-length would be a solid country-tinged rock record in the vein of Gin Blossoms, Lemonheads, and I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business. As is, it steers closer to sub par Dashboard Confessional balladry. Still, there are a few gems to be gleaned from the record.
Caudill did time in pop punk act Gameface, and those roots crop up whenever the guy flexes a bit. Basically, if he’s fronting a fast-paced tune, you can count on it being a barn-burner. Plus, he’s backed by Popeye Vogelsang (Farside) and Robbie Rist (The Brady Bunch, although he leaves the curse of Cousin Oliver at home. Turns out the dude is a solid drummer), among others. Rist also co-produced the record with Caudill. The pedigree is there, and, occasionally, the hits. “Remember the Time” is a rollicking tune. “Try to Be Here” is adorably goofy in its funky sentiments. The midtempo “Spend” will appeal to Counting Crows fans.
But where Counting Crows could put “Angels of the Silences” and “Walkaways” on the same record like it’s no big deal, Caudill trips up trying to provide a mellower balance to Try To Be Here. “Stay Home” derails the record’s momentum early on. “Reminder” kills five and a half minutes. “Dreaming in Realtime” is haunting but a little too formless. Throw in a few indistinct midtempo tunes like “Let’s Get Lost” and “All Things New,” and the album’s second half sags.
When Caudill works up the gumption, he can be a compelling songwriter and performer. While Try To Be Here isn’t a failure, it could benefit from a little more pep. Remember: Evan Dando generally keeps things fast and quirky. Embrace songs about killer werewolves.