Volume 95, Issue 2
Thursday, May 31, 2001
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT||
Blues Traveller return with moody Bridge
After a four year hiatus, big, bluesy John Popper and his fellow travelers are back with their tenth studio album.
Bridge features twelve songs of the usual, long harmonica solos and Popper's tricky word games, as previously heard in Four's "Hook."
While some elements on this album are consistent with its predecessors, the content focusses on a darker subject. Fans of Blues Traveler will remember the death of bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1999 and this album seems to be the therapy band members needed to continue without him.
The album was originally named Bridge Outta Brooklyn after Sheehan's nickname, and songs like "Pretty Angry" pay him much respect.
The album's opening track, "Back in the Day," recognizes the band's maturity and indeed, Bridge departs from the "Run-Around" days when they humbly toured as a back-up band on the Another Roadside Attraction circuit.
There is no longer a need for them to market cute radio-friendly songs, as their fan base has become solid and their albums prove successful. Granted, this album is certainly not in the domain of insert teen angst metal band here Blues Traveler, though still tight, have lost their glow and matured into their name.
If you love junkies or cowboys or any combination thereof, then you might just have something to cheer about. The Cowboy Junkies are back with their eleventh studio album, entitled Open.
From track one through track ten, Open takes its audience on a journey through a distorted landscape of hauntingly familiar images and plunges into dark streams of melody. It's a trademark quality of the Junkies' musical style.
However, this album is much darker, both lyrically and musically than many of their previous efforts. The album is kind of like the musical version of a David Lynch television series a wee bit twisted, surreal and splattered with shades of grey.
Open begins with "I Did It All For You," a gentle, flowing tune about murder and the evil lurking within humanity. This song reinforces the whole twisted aspect of the album the music and lyrical content are polar opposites, yet they somehow blend together with eerie beauty.
The finest track on the album is "I'm So Open." As the title track, it flows with more hope and spirit than the morbid themes of death, old age and failure which seem to permeate much of the album. The chorus is tantalizing combining the crystalline vocals of Margo Timmins with swirling wisps of electric guitar.
Another highlight is "1000 Year Prayer," an acoustic/piano ballad featuring stunning harmony between Timmins and Karin Bergquest, the band's back-up vocalist.
In the end, the album can be praised for many things, including lyrical depth and the use of a wide-variety of instruments, such as the mandolin, the organ and the wuritzer. However, it lacks clarity and focus.
Open builds itself upon shadowy tones, with waves of ghostly incandescent rhythm and rhyme and what emerges is an album similar to its theme hazy and indistinct and on the verge of disappearing from memory immediately after it's listened to.
After well over a year of anticipation, the latest album from the hotly-tipped Icelandic quintet Sigur Ros has finally been given North American release. Available for nearly two years on the other side of the Atlantic, it is refreshing to discover the hype surrounding the band has been merited.
Mournful, melancholic ambient-rock on a grand scale, Agaetis Bryjun is filled with beautiful sounds and textures. Radiohead may receive the acclaim for moving rock into its next era and creating bold, unorthodox albums that sound unlike anything else, but a comparison with Sigur Ros makes the British band appear less godlike.
Containing eleven strikingly dramatic and orginal tracks, it's difficult to imagine what could possibly have inspired Sigur Ros to record an album this ambitious. It is equally difficult to fully grasp how talented the band members must be for being able to successfully pull off an album so utterly enveloping and emotionally captivating.
"Sven-G-Englar," a stunning, ten-minute dirge, sets the mood early with gorgeous strings and a haunting melody. Similarly, "Ny Batteri" is a tension filled piece featuring muted horns, gentle vocals and a unique drum pattern.
Throughout the CD, the arrangements are remarkably accomplished. Every note, every turn in a track's structure is in exactly the right place. The importance of this kind of grace can't be overstated. Without it, a wall of sound like "Hjarto Hamast" might have collapsed; instead, it's just one of the many breathtaking moments on Agaetis Bryjun.
Given their love for singing in Icelandic and the lack of easily digestible pop hooks on this album, it seems highly unlikely Agaetis Bryjun will achieve any kind of mainstream success. However, given how rewarding and brilliant it is, the album is a success regardless.
Aaron St. John
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