Citay - Biography
Pop culture in the digital era resembles a Mobius strip of contorted logic, questionable motives, murky agendas, and suspect aesthetics; it’s a hall of mirrors in which irony endlessly reflects itself, and earnestness is a grotesque distortion. Whether you enjoy the music of Ezra Feinberg, who records by the appellation Citay, is likely to depend on one cold, heartless and inescapable criterion: your age. You see, Mr. Feinberg is an auteur, and his work pays homage to what is now termed “classic rock” with the sincerest form of flattery: abject imitation. Then again, sincerity may be in short supply these days, and Mr. Feinberg might be laughing at his clumsy, oversized and inept dinosaurs, not with them. Or perhaps he’s an incorrigible showboat, having his cloyingly sweet pop-culture cake, and eating it, too. Ultimately, that’s probably the greatest strength of Citay: a masterful one-two punch. If you’re a twenty-something hipster with a beard, Capri pants and a fixie, then the recycled sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and their hoary ilk are likely new and novel, a breath of fresh air that only briefly passes the tongue in your cheek on its journey to your invigorated lungs. If you’re old and actually lived through any portion of the 70s, you may not be so terribly enthused about Mr. Feinberg’s indulgences — especially if you thought this stuff sucked the first time around. If you feel this way, well, congratulations: you’re old. The only way to enjoy Citay — in fact, the sure-fire way to thoroughly dig Citay — is to drop your baggage, kick off your wing tips, and pretend that this unapologetic exercise in cultural composting is something fresh and vibrant and new under the sun. Feinberg is simply frolicking through music history, and when you’re playing in the fields of pop music, irresponsible, irrepressible romps are the name of the game.
A resident of San Francisco and a former member of Piano Magic, Feinberg started the group as a studio project in 2004, with considerable help from Tim Green of the Fucking Champs and Nation of Ulysses. Their eponymous debut, Citay (2007 Important Records), sprawls like a drunken grizzly across rock history, slathering instrumentation left and right: acoustic guitars, mandolins, flutes, synths and percussion all have their moment in the sun. The songwriting is perfunctory; the obvious goal here is to establish and all-encompassing environment, a biosphere of strum-along mellowness and shrill, stereo-twinned, distorto guitar solos. Citay made a splash, and Feinberg took advantage by expanding the membership to accommodate live performances. After a couple of appearances at South by Southwest, the big-band version of Citay signed to the formidable Dead Oceans label, where they nestled comfortably next to free-spirited peers like Akron/Family. Little Kingdom (2007 Dead Oceans) was next, and while it isn’t an earthshaking work of startling originality, it pretty much nails a lazy, soporific, trouser-free afternoon: part Canterbury maypole jig; part Zeppelin III, part Quaalude black-light stupor.
By now, the stoner vibe was prominent, and while the loose performances still took precedence over the skeletal attempts at composition, the overall effort was enough to engage the most curmudgeonly of skeptics. Dream Get Together (2010 Dead Oceans) encourages the fogeys to jettison the entire conversation about Citay being derivative. Grab a pad and pen and engage in a free-associative exercise while listening to “Careful with That Hat,” “Return from Silence,” “Secret Breakfast” or any of the other five songs on Dreams Get Together. Quick — jot down the first band that comes to mind. The Allman Brothers? Popol Vuh? Crosby Stills & Nash? Gong? Jane? Carol King? Guru Guru? The Dead? The Chocolate Watchband? It doesn’t matter anymore. Perhaps, in complete, guileless sincerity, all Ezra Feinberg really wants is for all of us to tune in, turn on, and drop out.