The Music Journal: Entry #8

Sub Pop Records

Sub Pop Records

9/4/09

The new Fruit Bats album, titled The Ruminant Band, seems to be set up almost like a country-folk mix tape—most of the songs borrow significant hooks from other songs (like Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” or Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By”), but usually only for incidental moments in the song, like an intro or a segue. “Flamingo”, the album’s last track, could probably be compared to early Randy Newman, or even Harry Nilsson (thanks to Eric D. Johnson’s super-high falsetto). It’s based on a simple 7th chord, played on the piano, while Johnson gives a spirited vocal performance. This is a really good album, with lots of various styles and tunes layered with intricacies, but for some reason, this bare-bones little ditty (which sounds like it was recorded live in the studio) has stuck with me the most. Maybe it’s the “Everything’s gonna be just fine” refrain that Johnson repeats multiple times at the end. Even though he sounds as if he is kind of trying to convince himself of this, I can’t help but believe it, one hundred per cent.

RTO Records

RTO Records

Currently, I’m listening to My Old, Familiar Friend, the new album from Brendan Benson. This album has caused quite a bit of a conundrum in my brain. While I like a good chunk of the songs just fine, it’s Benson’s lyrical approach I am starting to question. The title of My Old, Familiar Friends suggests a return to roots of some sort, but I have a different theory. It seems Benson had a certain concept for the album which involves composing the lyrics entirely from overused English language clichés. If you don’t notice it, it’s a fun listen, but it happens after awhile—you start to be able to count them, one by one, one after the other. “You’re like a bowl in a china shop,” “I can’t get my head around it,” they come in droves! I want to address you, Brendan—it’s cool that you have a concept, and all, but it’s not the best concept. Basically, you are just subjecting us to shit we’ve already heard before. Is that how you feel about music these days, or something? I mean, shit dude—we all know we have heard it all before, but there are still ways to spin and twist stuff so it’s YOURS. This just seems lazy! However, the bridge lyric of the album’s opening track, which goes something like “I fell in love with you and out of love with you and back in love with you all in the same day,” hints at some growth on Benson’s part. That song, which immediately caught my ear, ranks with some of his best stuff.

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