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Man On Earth
Label: Innocent 12th Street Records
Time: 10 tracks / 41:03 min.
Like being tickled while you’re asleep, the new Feathermerchants’ 10-song CD seems to find its home somewhere just under your waking state.
Sounding as if Gracie Slick teamed up with Pink Floyd one dark day in the seventies, stumbled into a time machine, and ended up in modern-day New York, this is a band that combines ambient music with psychedelia and mixes in a good dose of reverb so you’d get a clue as to where they’re coming from. Your reaction to the swirling, dark, trance-like sound on Last Man On Earth is what will determine how you feel about the project, ultimately. This is not a band that jams. This is not a collection of ‘up’ songs. To a great extent, it’s about atmosphere, which the album has plenty of.
The sound of the band is created by Pete Veru (vocals, guitars, songwriting), Jim Chapdelaine (guitars, background vocals, programming, various instruments), John Peckman (drums & percussion), J. Wiggin (bass and Background vocals), and, importantly, Shannon Kennedy, who provides the lead vocals. Kennedy has avoided the trap of trying to sound like any other particular female vocalist, yet fails to come across with a strongly identifiable sound. Perhaps her laid-back vocal style is required for the atmospheric sound of the project, but I’d like to hear her sing, at least part of the time, with a bit more assertiveness and a more aggressive attack. Perhaps it’s characteristic of this sound, that no specific performer emerge as dominant in any given track. Once again—this will be the key in deciding whether or not you will enjoy this CD: how laid-back do you want your music?
To these ears there is a lethargy about the performance on many tracks—the impression that, maybe the next take would’ve nailed the song, but they gave up too early. But, maybe I’m missing the point, or maybe ‘ambient’ just isn’t my thing…. I kept wondering, for instance, why the slide guitar work was mixed so far back and thin in the mix on the title track, which opened the album. I enjoyed the jazzy feel of the second track, “Change My Night,” but wondered why the vocal was also thin and distant. The psychedelia of “Head to the Here and Now,” seemed appropriately trance-like, but “Finish Last’ seemed more lethargic than dreamy. The question is, would ‘punchier,’ rather than ’muddy,’ production have improved “Go For A Walk,” by allowing us to hear the fuzz/pop guitar work, or would it have defeated the purpose of what this band is trying to do? For a group that’s willing to try such interesting things as using a toy piano on “Hitchcock Blonde,” it might be nice to hear a cleaner sound mix.
Don’t look for the lyrics to brighten up your day—these words are more of the, ‘I was alone, I couldn’t breath, I had everything, I didn’t need….’ variety. There is much (as in the just-quoted opening line of “The Last Man on Earth”) here concerning disillusionment, strained relationships, lack of meaning, etc. The brightest spot, lyrically, is the album closer, “The Long Goodbye,” which ends the CD on a positive note, although it drones on quite a bit, musically. Long, indeed.
Either you like this type of music or you don’t. If you want an uplifting CD, full of infectious, hook-laden tunes and positive, inspirational lyrics, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for rousing rock ‘n roll with barnstorming solos, forget it. Don’t look here for modern, techno/electonica/reggea/ska/euro-pop, either. It’s certainly not Prog-rock. Think: ambient, folk, jazz, psychedelic, trance….. Or, like I said earlier: a laid-back Gracie Slick with Pink Floyd in a somewhat ‘trippy’-mode. That might be exactly what you’re looking for, and, if it is—here your are. You’ll like this.
By Bert Saraco (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Bert Saraco 4/27/2006
add a tock if youre into trance ..subtract half a tock if you often fall
asleep listening to CDs.