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The Eyes have it

Band members bring solid pedigrees to 'mom and pop' operation 2.5/18/1 (floating overline-see layout) Krist Novoselic says Eyes Adrift delivers 'honest, true' music

Krist Novoselic sounds more like a barker than a bassist when discussing his new band, Eyes Adrift.

'Yeah, c'mon down and see some good rock 'n' roll,' he says. As hype goes, it's a fairly innocuous statement.

This is a band that should know a thing or three about hyperbole:

Novoselic was formerly a member of the most successful and influential band of the '90s, that little group called Nirvana.

Guitarist Curt Kirkwood slogged some serious miles and years with his brother Cris in the fabled Arizona trio, the Meat Puppets.

Drummer Bud Gaugh played with both Sublime and its follow-up combo, the Long Beach Dub Allstars.

Now they're together in Eyes Adrift. Just don't call them a supergroup.

'All that supergroup stuff is just a bunch of garbage,' Novoselic fumes. 'I don't even know what the hell that means.'

He also bristles at the notion that Eyes Adrift is a group of musicians bonded by misfortune. In addition to Novoselic's comrade, the late Kurt Cobain, Sublime's singer, Brad Nowell, died of an overdose, and Cris Kirkwood has battled drug addiction for years.

'We get a lot of perspectives thrown our way, like we're this band of survivors, linked by tragedy,' Novoselic says. 'We're just like, 'Whatever.' We're human beings, and it's part of the human experience that everyone has their ups and downs. We're just a rock 'n' roll band.

'Don't get me wrong, we're all proud of where we came from. É The other day we were doing a radio interviewÉ and I saw the station's playlist, and what do you think is on it? Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Eyes Adrift! Dave (Groehl) and I are still dominating the airwaves!' he says, referring to his ex-Nirvana bandmate and leader of the Foo Fighters.

In contrast to Novoselic's boundless optimism ('We're a pure band, we're genuine, and we're true,' he states repeatedly) about the band and the music, the new album, 'Eyes Adrift' (Spinart Records), has a subdued, wistful air.

While it isn't exactly haunted by the ghosts of band members past, there is a definite feeling that painful skin is being shed. Kirkwood, who is responsible for the majority of the songs, is in fine form here but clearly in a reflective mood when he sings lines such as 'Sometimes it seems like nothing will do/directionless/untried and true.'

Anyone familiar with the sunbaked psychedelia of the Meat Puppets will certainly hear their echoes here, though Curt Kirkwood is slightly less crazed with his guitar work than usual, opting instead for subtler sounds and textures, as on the jazzy leadoff track 'Sleight of Hand.'

Novoselic bellies up to the mike on three songs, and his singing voice is surprisingly strong and supple, especially on 'Inquiring Minds,' a tune about society's voracious appetite for scandal, and 'Pasted,' the 15-minute-plus space jam that concludes the album. It's not a masterpiece, but the record does show potential aplenty. It is, after all, only a first step.

'I've already got a category for our music,' Novoselic suggests. 'It's neo-grunge/alt-country. Just go to your local record store and ask.'

Given the collective experience of the three band members, Eyes Adrift is in no hurry to embrace the mainstream or jump through corporate hoops to get its music played. 'We're iconoclasts,' Novoselic says. 'We all come from a punk rock background.

'The album and the music came together very quickly,' he says. 'That was the art; now we're focusing on the commerce. We're fortunate in our experience that it affords us certain opportunities. But as far as the mainstream goes, all you have to do is turn on the TV and watch the atrocities unfold before your eyes, and I'm not talking about snipers: the distortion in the news, exploitation and all the clutter that's pawned off as entertainment.

'Who's hot, who's not? Who's in, who's out? That's so five minutes ago! Magazines are like stewards of cultural crap!' Novoselic goes on to furiously tick off a long list of things that annoy him about 21st century culture, at one point declaring that 'we're fiddling while Rome burns.'

The band 'is like a politician who finances his own campaign,' he continues. 'We could dump a million dollars and try to shove Eyes Adrift down everybody's throat, but we don't need to do that. We have a grass-roots message: We're playing music that's honest and true. We're on the road, we're playing small clubs and having a blast. É We're independent businessmen working in the free enterprise system. We're Mom and Pop!'

At age 37, Novoselic is certainly no spring chicken in the rock 'n' roll world. Yet to his credit, he somehow maintains the enthusiasm of a feisty teen punk. 'The other day I smashed a radio in my hotel room,' Novoselic offers as proof of his youthful credibility. 'I guess I didn't like the song that was on.'

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