Album Review: The Small Square – Ours & Others

In practice, supergroups tend either to showcase something greater than the sum of their parts, or (more often) they’re uninspired, failing to capture the qualities that brought fame to each of their members. While they rarely live up to the promise and/or hype that surrounds them, every now and then there’s an exception. The Salt Collective is one such example. Another is The Small Square. I don’t know that this outfit is in fact billing itself as a supergroup (or if its publicists are doing so), but I know one when I see and hear it.

Paul Chastain is best known as a member of Velvet Crush. John Louis Richardson may be less of a household name, but the drummer’s pedigree is impressive, including work with Gin Blossoms, Tommy Keene, Shoes and many others. For this collection of ten songs – nine originals and a reading of one by the late Keene – The Small Square displays its musical brilliance. Ours & Others may remind some of a cross between early Tom Petty and late (Third-era) Big Star. Hints of Jonathan Wilson pop up here and there as well. The melancholy that informed Pete Ham’s songs for Badfinger is present here, too, and the lovely midtempo melodies wrapped around those lyrics shows the entire package to great effect.

A number of super-talented friends stop by to help, and it’s from there that the super part comes. John Moremen (The Paul & John), Jeff and John Murphy (Shoes) and others add subtle touches to the songs. Lovely stuff, and recommended.