Magnolia Electric Co.
I have to watch my back after this review. See, Barbara (aka Only Angels’ head momma) is a Jason Molina fan, and after she gets wind of this review I’ll have some extra explaining to do. Out of our staff I am the least qualified to review anything that might be described as an ‘alt-country’ release. I have my favorites within the genre but unfortunately I have a very difficult time relating to most of it. So, bearing this in mind, here’s what I have to say about What Comes After the Blues.
I enjoyed Songs: Ohia (Molina’s previous effort). Often Molina is compared to Neil Young and this is a fairly (really) accurate comparison. Both sing in a slightly quivering voice and the lyrics are often the most important element to many of their songs. It won’t surprise many to hear that Magnolia Electric Co. (also the title of Songs: Ohia’s last record) does not deviate too far from Molina’s earlier work. What Comes After the Blues gets off to a great start with “The Dark Don’t Hide It.” It’s practically rocking compared to most of the other songs here, with fuzzy electric guitar and boy-girl chorus. On this song and throughout the CD Mark Rice’s drums sound great. He’s hitting them hard enough but they sound oddly soft on every song. Next is “The Night Shift Lullaby”, another highlight. Jennie Benford provides main vocal duties on this song—she has a great country-rock voice without sounding too country. The only problem is that throughout most of What Comes After the Blues these interesting elements stick out like sore thumbs instead of adding to the whole cohesive experience. Add to that the fact that this just ain’t my thing (like I said), and there you have it.
And to all those sonsabitch’s crying ‘context!’ I say get real. To use a totally extreme example: if one were relying 100% on context you could say, ‘Gee, I don’t really dig bestiality, but damn this one is good’ (for whatever reason). I recently read a well written article on Coke Machine Glow (a great zine) about the difference between music critics and music fans. By the rationale behind this article I’d be deemed a music fan, due to my inability to be objective and analytical about music that isn’t my particular taste. I agree, for a totally fair and unbiased opinion that’s the way things should be. But I happen to think that there is also stock in the opinions of music critics with a particular taste. Isn’t the job of any reader to find out just which critics they share a similar taste with and then heed their advice? I mean, I’ve come to discover the seven or so critics on-line (print publications generally suck), in various blogs and zines, that share a similar taste. When I read, say, Pitchfork, sometimes it’s deceiving to trust in any old objective analysis. When I read that the new Kills record is amazing (which it most definitely is not, for us fans without an appreciation for gimmick-y ‘sexy rock and roll’) I have to check to see who the reviewer is. Needless to say, it certainly wasn’t either of the reviewers that I trust. Ok ok, I’ll get to the point. I am one of those reviewers with specific tastes. I will not, under any circumstance, write something like this disgusting abomination of a music review.
So, what I can say is that if you enjoy relatively quiet, contemplative, gentle, country-rock, then by all means check out Magnolia Electric Co. But, if you’re biting your finger nails waiting for the next Locust release, you might wanna bypass this one.
- Andrew Iliadis
/sept 1st 2005/