The press kit for This Cage Has No Bottom, the Ascetic Junkies’ sophomore release, suggests you file it under the following, um, genres: folk-pop, dancy bluegrass, hootenanny, and/or whiskey stomp. So next time you’re in FYE and having trouble finding this record, ask the well-paid clerks to show you to the “dancy bluegrass” section. If that fails, try “whiskey stomp”.
In addition to these fictional genres that imply a rowdy good time, the publicity for the album talks about how the Junkies’ pop-infused bluegrass is a high-energy, raucous concoction that sets crowds ablaze. I never got the inspiration to dance or holler or set cars on fire while listening. This is simply highly eclectic music that takes a lot of musical chances, but these chances seemingly are taken by people who certainly are not experienced songwriters. On this record, all five members of the band contribute to the songwriting process, and the results provide many head-scratchers and lots of mediocrity.
However, standouts include “Get What You Want, Get What You Need”, bluegrass-pop with excellent melodies that isn’t afraid to plagiarize the Decemberists a bit, and “God/Devil/Gov’t” which plays like a
Dillards/Zombies hybrid with interesting forays into electro-pop. There’s not much more to mention; the bluegrass sound so hyped-up isn’t really present here. For the most part, it’s just an indie pop record with some ventures into frighteningly gleaming modern country-pop, and influences ranging from the Beatles and Jellyfish to Bettie Serveert, Belle & Sebastian and Nickel Creek. The Ascetic Junkies need to simplify or learn how to make this all come together, because right now, the band’s just trying too hard.