Olympia, Washington, indie label Pop Sweatshop can notch its guitar with two fine examples of the EP art. The awkwardly named Sam Densmore's Silverhawk soars despite an equally cumbersome title: Densmore's Flowers in June EP, subtitled Recollections of the Broken Times ..., takes longer to ask for by name than it does to play. But the trio makes a better case for itself in four songs that span fifteen minutes than most acts do in an LP's worth of redundant lather. Densmore, formerly teamed with his brother John in Portland's Frequency db, writes catchy, vaguely mean songs and sings them with Robyn Hitchcock's pinched detachment. The especially effective "Break Your Crown" and "Obsessive" recall the sweet, noisy disenchantment of Belly's undervalued second disc, Densmore's guitar staying crunchy in the milk of his strong melodies. Flowers in June accomplishes the reconnaissance work of an EP, whetting the appetite for a full disc.
The more traditionalist -- that is, power-pop-flavored -- Spiv, on the other hand, uses the form to stay in shape after a disappointing album. By Definition, the group's 1999 release, suffered from overload, with too many soundalike songs. (Not that any album with a song called "Bass Gets You Laid" is completely without merit. Its title must be true; the group's bass player is MIA on the EP.) Everybody's a Rock Star, though, is short enough (again, just about a quarter of an hour) that frontman Chris Barber's pithy lyrics (Never grovel at the window of a brothel, he counsels on "Beatley") get the attention they deserve.
Posies guru Ken Stringfellow produced Rock Star and added background vocals, bass and keyboards. Barber's songs gain depth and variety as a result of Stringfellow's subtle influence; "Beatley," with its high, multitracked harmonies, lives up to its title. "Seedy Release" moves from acoustic pastoral to a terrific, swaying chorus powered by echoed piano and electric guitar. "VIPs of the Street" is a strange but insinuating hiccup of Manchester disaffection and dreamy wah-wah guitar. And like Densmore's disc, Rock Star fulfills a crucial function of a good EP: It prompts a scramble back to the previous release for evidence that greatness might somehow have been ignored. Greatness, no -- but from here forward, ignoring Spiv or Silverhawk would be a mistake.