There’s a lot to be said for novelty. You can listen to a record that reeks of intuition and distinction and probably hear one of two things. You could opt for a), and conclude that the noise you’re hearing is refreshing and inviting, one in which every attempt at invention succeeds, or at least the sum of the parts do, intentionally or otherwise. You like this record. It’s obvious that you’re completely hooked. But you can also hear b), in which the experiments are largely misguided, sometimes sloppy, and even scatterbrained and foolhardy. You like this record also, because it has balls.
As proof, take Red Elephant’s Songs of the Spaghetti Western. At first listen, there are immediate warning signs that put these Chicagoans outside of the realm of everyday rock outfits, and into the weirder club that touts Morphine and Soul Coughing as members. You hear Ken Fountain’s baritone, raw, esoteric sing-speak vocals, like the guy from the Crash Test Dummy’s or Mark Lanegan imitating Doughty. And you get the chunky, funky, jazz beats. And then there’s the cello. And the saxophone. You’re a little confused at this point, but when you keep listening, above all this mess and the overall brashness of the whole thing, you’re oddly compelled to keep listening. Largely because the opener, “Ironsides,” gets in your friggin head and won’t leave without much blunt object pounding. It’s rather addicting. And at that point, why give up? Give in.
Songs of the Spaghetti Western, for all of it’s intrigue, is no perfect record. “Waxman” recalls a spineless Live song, and the dull and disembodied “Still Life” goes nowhere. Yet beneath these slight setbacks, Red Elephant generally hits the right creative balance with winners like “Reaching for Shiva” and “100 Miles.”
It’s altogether novel.
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