Mission: Immersion pt. 1 – Blind Man’s Zoo by 10,000 Maniacs

Elektra Records

A short explanation – Mission: Immersion is my attempt to listen to and write short reviews of every record I own (500+ vinyl, 1,200+ CDs). I will attempt, with all of my might, to refrain from buying new music until I have completed the task. I realize this idea is not an original one, as many fellow writers I know have undertaken similar challenges (the best example is Ian Hrabe’s hilarious and spot-on Why Are There So Many Records in My Life?), and in a way, this is inspired by them. But, it’s also a reflection of me wanting to accomplish three things:

1) Keep up my writing chops,
2) Save more money,
3) Learn about and hear firsthand all the random shit that has accumulated on my shelves.

Again, I’m sure the reasoning for people who have done this before was fairly similar. It has simply become a personal goal.

Blind Man’s Zoo is the 10,000 Maniacs record that hardcore, or die-hard, fans of 10,000 Maniacs use to brag about being a die-hard or hardcore 10,000 Maniacs fan. (Man, neither die-hard or hardcore works for describing ANY 10,000 Maniacs fan, no matter how devoted, so I’ll just stick with “big”.) It’s the record that got a little bit of attention, but nowhere near as much critical success as follow-up In My Tribe, let alone the commercial success of Our Time in Eden. Big fans will use this album as an example of when the band was at their most emotionally raw and artistically motivated.

Whatever – it’s all just 10,000 Maniacs to me, and though I did kind of like a couple of their songs back when Eden first came out, I was never a huge fan. And then Natalie Merchant came out with that awful solo stuff, and after how overplayed that shite was, I can’t even really stand the 10,000 Maniacs songs I like anymore. I try to hear beyond it, but it can be tough. On Blind Man’s Zoo, the songwriting is consistently decent, but the music itself sounds wrought with studio-musician disease – no real soul or energy in the playing, or the production. At times, it even sounds a bit like elevator music. Merchant’s voice is by far the most unique aspect – kind of a female tenor, which is odd, yet it gives her the ability to do some things we don’t hear too often in any kind of music.

In the lyrics, themes of motherhood and childhood alike channel an overall theme of the idea that life is a journey to find oneself FOR oneself, and it’s great to champion such ways of thinking. “Eat For Two” and “You Happy Puppets” are good, catchy examples of this. But at times, like on the overly-dramatic closing track “Jubilee”, the Maniacs sound a bit like they are lost up their own a-holes, and that combined with all the crap I know Merchant has done since negated this experience a bit for me. Still, I realize it’s not a bad record. **1/2

Listening Again? I doubt it.

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