I felt kind of biased to write a review about former Pavement's frontman new album
because I am an absolute fan of Sidewalk and of SM's first solo album. So I asked my
girlfriend Amrita to help me and maybe bring some of her innocent objectivity, her being
totally out of step with the nebula world of independent music of our time. We are going out
together but we are totally different. Indeed, she listens to Destiny's Child, Britney Spears,
Sum 41 and everything Dr Dre produces, she bought Elvis's greatest hits and waits
impatiently for the new album, she thinks that Mick Jagger is hot, she's a night-clubber but
never heard about Iggy Pop. I won't continue the list because she says I am being 'naughty' in
not letting her practice her secretarial talents in typewriting so I stop here and let her caress
the keyboard with her nicely polished pink fingernails while I go around the room to find
SM's album and play it for us to really start the review. Some kind of four-handed live
01. Water and a Seat.
I like that Angie ( it's the little name I give Angus ), it sounds like a nursery rhyme for children! I want to have 2 babies you know, a girl first and then a boy, you know because, uh, girls are nicer than boys. Ok, the review first, then the plans for our future, alright, you tyrant! Well it's a little repetitive, don't you think? Uh, it's the introduction, ok. Oh, he forgot to tune in his guitar, it's a pity to forget that when you record a cd. ( Angus says it's a bandy-legged mid tempo mellow jazz blues pop fairytale but I don't really understand what it means. He says it's concise and in keeping with what he expected from Stephen Malkmus, "a little shambolic but skillfully handed". The weird rhythm and the bluesy lines are just fine for a start ).
02 Ramp of Death.
What a strange title !( Angie says it's one of Sm's trademark: weird lyrics and titles. He is a blacklisted poet in winterland.) I see that my boyfriend tries to be one too ! What, the song is finished yet. Play it again. Well, you must admit that it is nice and neat but a little boring, uh? ( Angus says the solo and second guitar lines spoil the general atmosphere of driving through the quietness of an overcrowded suburb of Canada and that it is not boring; it's indie pop.) As you like it honey.
03 (Do Not Feed The) Oyster
Here again they have worked on a nice slow introduction and silly title. I admit it makes me bob the head, it's easy on the ear. I don't like that distorted part in the middle, I don't like solos in fact. ( Angus says it's not a solo, it's a melody played by several guitars altogether with variations. The backward guitar track in the middle makes him think of the Beatles but he says that only to make his colleagues mad at the webzine).
04 Vanessa From Queens
Once again, really melodious with that smooth keyboards my dear, but the songs all sound alike ( Angie agrees with me. He says that he's afraid of being disappointed by the album because he has not a good vibe yet and the songs have nothing unique up to now, he expected better. Here again a short solo and guitar lines he find a little useless ). He's a little harsh I think, I like this one.
Do you have cigarettes my dear? What? I don't have to write everything I say? Don't say *******censored*******. Take your computer back, I am fed up with reviews. (Angus speaking now). Malkmus's singing is better on that one but it is still weird to hear some wah wah in the background and unusual second guitar lines. I suppose that's why it's called 'Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks' now : they have worked as a real band on that one so it's normal that it sounds different.
06 Animal Midnight.
Well, basically it's the same pattern as before : a real sweet pop tune plagued with useless uncanny arrangements. I am beginning to worry. There's not a single song that stands out of the album up to now.
07 Dark Wave.
Gosh! The intro sounds like The Rentals! Shit, oh I must have a drink. Amrita is crying in the bathroom, I am going to apologize.
08 Witch Mountain Bridge.
Well, she was not crying over my attitude, she has got no more lipstick for tonight. This one is better, classical Malkmus arpeggio progression with his unmistakable singing. It echoes Hey Joe in my mind. The second part of the song takes on the problems that annoyed me on the previous songs but less irritating.
09 Craw Song.
"Martha wants Jackie, Jackie wants William but William wants Leroy. Leroy is straight, he couldn't commit to the mental ju-jitsu of switching his heathen". I am not sure of the transcription but it sounds like pure Malkmus style and I feel a little better now. This one is some kind of acoustic folk ballad (about love?) with harmonium.
10 One Percent Of One.
Another several parts song, over 9 minutes. Is this prog-pop? I am definitely deceived by this album. The grandiloquent pentatonic solos makes me sick here because this has nothing to do with SM's style. (Around 7:00) A little jazzy thing, interesting but they head into something else. Is this a song to prove the world that they are real good musicians and performers? I can't take anymore and skip to the next.
Not so bad, regarding the previous one. 2 voices singing with beautiful harmonies, well nothing much to say.
Maybe a bunch of other songs would have counterbalance the weak ones. I hope I am wrong and that the album will grow on me, especially after seeing them live next month ( someone told me they are touring Europe in april ).
Conclusion: maybe I should stop speed dating.
-Angus Anderson & Amrita Mann
/mar 15th 2003/