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The Balky Mule

The Length of the Rail

(FatCat; US: 24 Mar 2009; UK: 24 Mar 2009)

“Everyone’s taking pills just ‘cause you’re afraid of standing out. I was terrified when my doctor told me that I had a unique and interesting personality trait. But then he told me about new Zoloft, Prozac, and I just take three pills a day and I blend into this horrible, inbred corporate landscape, and I don’t care.” - Doug Stanhope


With a gap of eight years between albums (his last one barely released), Melbourne’s Sam Jones took his time and assembled a brilliant lo-fi record. Somewhere between Syd Barrett, Capitol K, and Damon Albarn, The Length of the Rail is one of the early contenders for 2009’s album of the year. It makes sense that Jones played guitar in Flying Saucer Attack, bass and marimba in Minotaur Shock, and EFX in Third Eye Foundation ‘cause this record sounds like (and is) Sam jamming with himself, leaning more towards freak folk than his distorted psychedelectronic rock tendencies.


There’s something so innocent and pure in Sam’s frail voice, chipper acoustic guitar, and half-broken garage sale keyboards. In a world where pop charts almost exclusively contain the most polished, expensively produced music—that which is autotuned and Pro Tooled to eliminate natural aural quirks and fake talent as necessary—Sam’s attitude of “not always thinking of faults and wobbles as things to be corrected, but rather as personality to be accommodated” is practically revolutionary. The faults on this record are what make it interesting, what make it as real as a human being. Also like humans, you may not take an instant liking to The Length of the Rail. Take some time with it, and get to know it. With an open mind and a joyful heart, you will end up with a friend for life.

Rating:

Author of blurbs, curator of playlists, and booker of shows, Alan Ranta has been plugging away at that music writing and programming thing since 2004. His brutally honest critical opinion has appeared in such publications as Exclaim!, CBC Music, PopMatters and Tiny Mix Tapes, and has been enlisted to help judge the Polaris Music Prize, Pazz & Jop, and Juno Awards. Based in East Van, he graduated with a BFA in music from Simon Fraser University in 2012. He's also a social media plague, cat whisperer, socio-political haranguer, Canucks fan, and one of the last remaining cowboys.


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