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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Women in Clover: Allison (from left), Sarah and Sts of the Lookers.

They're in Clover:
Portland's Lookers revel in lo-fi heaven

PORTLAND INDIE POPPERS the Lookers are cast in the soft, confident mold of Lois and Tiger Trap. Recorded in Portland and Olympia with Toni Gogin and Pat Maley, the Lookers' new album, In Clover (Candy-Ass Records), revels in the lo-fi, dream-pop aesthetic; it is as refreshing and clean as a deep breath of winter air. Lead vocalist and guitarist Sarah Dougher has a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Instead of teaching, though, she prefers to balance her creative and mundane sides through her band and temp work. "I finished my dissertation in May, and I needed to do something where someone else was in charge," says Dougher during her lunch break at her current job, where she is an office manager. "Plus I needed some money."

As a result, much of Dougher's material for In Clover was conceived in her cubicle. In particular, "The Office" confronts the nine-to-five world in a way Dilbert would if he had inhaled too much toner: "Working all morning until the glory soaks through / chained up and waiting for the proofread hairdo / Shiva with a hundred hands, please cover my shift / They'll pinch you on the ass when you bend your knees to lift."

"I wrote that song when I was working at a trucking company," says Dougher. "I wanted to write a song about the ways that the mundane kinds of accouterments of the office take on these crazy symbolic meanings when all you're doing is inputting data. More people work for their art than we understand." But the Lookers aren't the Boss or Billy Bragg by any stretch. The band's obsessions are more personal: personal heroes ("Track Star" and "Ladybird" pay tribute to Wilma Rudolph and Ladybird Johnson), personal strength ("My Luck Has Changed," "The Feeling Is Mutual") and personal crises ("Leaving Texas," "The Liar").

The standout track, "New Year's Eve," leaves cynicism and despair behind and looks at life through the bright eyes of a real 22-year-old kid named Andy. "Last New Year's, I went to the crappiest party in my life," says Dougher, who just turned 30. "I kept thinking, I should be on a cruise. I should be holding a glass of champagne. I was there with my band, and Andy was so brilliant, so full of life and hope. We felt so happy that he was there and in the world. His presence opened our eyes on how we shouldn't be so fuddy-duddy, that the sun will come up tomorrow."

The Lookers and the Crabs perform at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz on Monday (Sept. 29) and then do a noontime show on the Stanford University campus on Tuesday. Now that Chelsea Clinton is a Stanford Cardinal, the Lookers have no plans to freeze up if they see the first daughter doing the Indie Pop Head Bob™ in the front row. "I don't really know what kind of music she's into, but maybe she'll like our band," says Dougher. "It'd be great if she came, but I hope that everyone comes. That's the teacher in me, I guess; you can't play favorites."

Lord of the Fly

An unusual coup for the Agenda Lounge's Tuesday acoustic alternative: Mary Lou Lord performs on Oct. 7 with Lisa Dewey opening. Also, Agenda picked up B-Hive's Sunday reggae night. Dub Nation performs on Sunday (Sept. 28). Native Elements and Dub Congress follow on subsequent Sundays. And to keep you abreast of '80s comebacks, the original Men at Work perform at the Great American Music Hall on Oct. 2.

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From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997 issue of Metro.

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