The Jim Walsh Band
In The Short Time
The first few bars of "Forever," the first track of The Jim Walsh Band's new CD, In The Short Time, fools you into thinking it will take you somewhere. Then the vocals start, and you've just slammed into a dead end sign. Jim Walsh's smooth, soothing, likes-to-hear-his-own-vocal-range voice is just not a good match for the soft, predictable rhythms. With no hook in the music, you'd kind of expect at least an edge to the voice.
So you keep listening, since maybe the first song was put on the CD to satisfy some lost bet or something. Ditto for the second track.
Now, by the third track, "Gin Joint," you're thinking "okay, now, here we go! This has to be good." But again, it disappoints. Great jazzy, bluesy sound, but it falls flat. Their musical restraint starts gnawing at this point, kind of like being forced to drive a Ferrari on the open road at 20 miles an hour. And you start wondering -- if they're not going to play like they really feel it, then why bother at all?
The rest of the tracks are all about the same. Same longing, yearning, wanting moreäbut oh, wait, that's the listener. Throw on some Metallica after this one, and you'll be fine. This would be a band to watch, if they learn how to place an edge just where you can drive off it. All the individual elements that make a great sound are found in this CD -- good production, great vocals, interesting lyrics, and rhythmic music -- they just don't play well together. Well, maybe in an elevatorä (CPl)
Joan of Arc
So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness
Joan of Arc's So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness sounds as though they were playing through a bunch of different song ideas, thinking that the tape wasn't on yet. Tim Kinsella did a lot of planning of the album on his computer before recording it, but in execution it still sounds unpredictable. The songs are almost straightforward, but with disorienting melodic or rhythmic additions happening exactly when you don't expect them.
The album is full of peculiar riffs hiding underneath quiet (though not mellow) pop-rock songs. The songs rely less on typical verse-chorus-verse construction and instead go for a more linear structure. Often something that might be the chorus in the middle is simply left behind and forgotten by the end of the song. Listening to the record is a bit like trying to flatten out a bubble behind fresh wallpaper: just when you think it's perfect, the bubble appears again in a slightly different place.
"On a Bedsheet in the Breeze on the Roof," the first song, sounds like a less depressed Jim O'Rourke. The detached vocals avoid any particular structure, which has the effect of opening up the time, while other riffs cycle away out of time with the rhythm section. Even when songs are more straightforward, like in "The Infinite Blessed Yes," they incorporate dynamic changes and breaks in unusual places (just in case it was starting to sound like a regular song). For anyone else, "Mean to March" would be their big pop anthem, but Joan of Arc's performance is much more ambivalent -- even with the chorus of voices providing backup, the guitars don't ever completely commit to the song, sounding like they decided to play only under protest.
Other songs experiment with atmosphere as well as melody, with similar effects. "Participation Billy," with its overly bouncy waltz groove, sounds like they recorded a bunch of kids singing along with a calliope player at the circus. "Madelleine Laughing," in particular, sounds like Kinsella's sitting in a restaurant making up a song while waiting for the band to finish tuning their instruments and warming up. (HM)
(Jade Tree Records -- 2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE. 19810; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.jadetree.com/)