Carrboro, already a pretty damn musical place, got a little more tuneful recently with the arrival of Charles Douglas, by way of Dayton, Ohio, and several other points north. Under the name Alex McAulay, Douglas was half of the adamantly eclectic off-beat-pop duo Vegetarian Meat whose sole release, Let’s Pet, was one of those critically lauded but good-luck-finding-it affairs. 31 Flavors collects Douglas’ first two solo albums, Minor Wave and The Burdens of Genius, on one disc. Veg Meat mate Manish Kalvakota shows up for a handful of cuts, but Douglas is primarily a one-man-band guy, layering keyboards and other decorative effects like a less-lush Fred M. Cornog (East River Pipe), occasionally sounding like John (The Mountain Goats) Darnielle with a bigger budget. Across 31 Flavors, he brings to mind such low-to-medium-fi stalwarts as recovering wünderkind Ben Lee (“New Attitude”), Liz Phair (“Luxury”), Chris Knox (the clattering and catchy “Anywhere Right Now”) and Beat Happening (“Go”).
Mood and theme-wise, there’s a clear distinction between the two albums. Wave is someone trying to figure things out, whereas Genius says “screw it”: Tales of dream girls of both the potential and literal variety give way to songs about suicide notes and nameless saviors. True to the title, there are 31 songs on this overflowing disc. And there are almost that many different flavors, ranging from the pleasing acoustic strumming of “The Rabbit Never Gets the Carrot” (complete with a brief Elmer Fudd impersonation) to the fuzz-pop of “Prince”–half Modern Lovers, half the titular Purple One. However, not every song–for example, the revenge fantasy “Henry Lee,” which is a little too bitter to swallow–goes down easily.