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Album review: Operation Aloha's self-titled effort

May 11, 2009 |  4:57 pm

Operation_240- Unlike most so-called supergroups, this 14-member alt-rock collective doesn't have a calculated mergers-and-acquisitions vibe about it. Operation Aloha, which performs Tuesday night in L.A. at the Troubadour, was born when guys from Maroon 5, Gomez and Phantom Planet (among other acts) assembled for a monthlong vacation in Maui, where they lived in treehouses and drained wine bottles that ended up becoming percussion instruments.

If there was a conference room involved in the creation of this outfit, it belonged to a travel agency, not a record company. The supremely laid-back album the musicians eventually made (between naps and hikes and barbecues) feels as much like a collection of memories as it does a collection of songs, and that's to its benefit as well as its detriment: The best of these 14 tracks -- such as "Failure" and "Elephant Pharmacy," both sung by Ian Ball of Gomez (and both originally featured on Ball's 2007 solo disc, "Who Goes There") -- exude a warmth and a spontaneity that simply can't be manufactured.

Yet beyond an appealingly scrappy rendition of the Australian bush ballad "Waltzing Matilda," the second half of "Operation Aloha" bogs down with too many half-baked song sketches that never do anything but establish a cozy roots-folk atmosphere.

That's great if you were there hanging out in Maui, but pretty boring if you weren't.

-- Mikael Wood

Operation Aloha
"Operation Aloha"
(Operation Aloha)
Two and a half stars