The Weepies are a duo made up of Deb Talan (who does most of the singing) and Steve Tannen (who does most of the guitar work). And for the most part, what they create is simple, yet smart adult contemporary roots pop that wouldn’t seem out of place along side the likes of Sixpence None the Richer or Natalie Merchant. This is obvious just listening to the opening notes of the song, “Take It From Me”. The Weepies don’t weep so much as weave subtle, but effective pop melodies that seem suited for radio station’s play lists. Talen’s voice is sweet, fragile and pretty on this track, but it’s nothing that one probably hasn’t heard before or will hear again. Think of a talent like Jane Siberry if influenced by Sarah McLachlan circa Fallen and you would get the gist of this ditty.
The Weepies hit the mark with song two (no, not the Blur “woo hoo” cover). “Gotta Have You” is a better effort, that is again a sweet melody driven by Tannen’s guitar and a rudimentary arrangement. Here, Talan’s vocals are better suited as Tannen gives some harmonies. It’s not alt.country, but one gets the feeling it’s a mere pedal steel guitar away from that domain. “Gotta Have You” shines from start to finish, and that’s because the duo do what they do best on this number. Even better is how this song glides into the rather rambling, ragged troubadour-like “World Spins Madly On” with its haunting strings opening things up. Resembling a duet perhaps between Michael Penn and Aimee Mann, this track is also quite stellar and stunning, even if one thinks the song is going to break out into something larger. It never does, but the tune doesn’t suffer at all. Well worth a repeated listen, or seven. The same can be said later on during “Living In Twilight”, which revisits the same foundation with Tannen taking over the lead vocals.
The Weepies perhaps are at their best with “Citywide Rodeo”, utilizing basically a similar blueprint to one of the earlier numbers, albeit leaning towards an acoustic lullaby feel. It’s a tune that’s in no hurry to finish and when it’s this well executed, why would it be? Unfortunately, this soft, safe acoustic pop nature sometimes is a blessing and a curse. A blessing when it works, but when the Weepies stick to the same format with each song, even if “Riga Girls” is a tad different, it can also be a group’s undoing. While “Riga Girls” shuffles along, it’s never really making the listener take notice. Finally “Suicide Blonde” (no, not the last great INXS single) breaks that pattern and is a poppy, up-tempo gem that is short and sweet, perhaps even a tad too short as it clocks in at just over 100 seconds.
The Weepies rarely delve into a sort of quasi-coffeehouse folk/pop, but the closest they brush up against that style is “Painting By Chagall” with Talan supported by the rather hushed harmony of Tannen. The strings and rich backdrop only heightens the feel from start to finish, not overdoing anything to diminish the overall effect. The lyrical content of “Not Your Year” sounds like someone’s glass isn’t only half empty, but has no bottom. Thankfully, the band gives a new color to its sound with a bit more keyboard and effects, and the drums are more pronounced here. The closing “Slow Pony Home” is the longest of the baker’s dozen tunes, with Talan back in control for this tender, swaying pop melody that slowly grows with some electric guitar touches. While it’s not a landmark album, it’s still good to know that some groups like the Weepies can still churn out melodies in a day where they are sadly going out of style.
// Notes from the Road
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