[14 August 2014]
Portland, Oregon’s Sassparilla has done something very rare in indie circles that’s worth talking about: deliver a double album. Now, most, if not all, doubles carries with them some flotsam and jetsam—whether it’s The White Album, Zen Arcade or Something/Anything?—and in that respect, Pasajero / Hullabaloo is no different, though there’s a rather high signal-to-noise ratio. But this is no Use Your Illusion. Rather, each disc has a distinct personality to it. Pasajero is a little jazzy and a little rocky, while Hullabaloo is more intimate and blues/country based. While Pasajero is good, and Hullabaloo is great, there’s certainly stuff worth digging into across the 19 tracks of this outing. Quite a bit of good stuff, actually. And there’s an overarching theme of religion that permeates this set: “Who built the ark?” goes a line on the first disc’s “What the Devil Don’t Know”, and I’d be damned if I didn’t hear a response to that sentiment later on the second disc. The devil also makes an appearance in three song titles and is mentioned during the chorus to “Peaches”.
Pasajero boasts some songs that feel as though they were pulled from the Tom Waits songbook, such as opener “Overture” and “What the Devil Don’t Know”, and as far as homage goes, they’re outstanding. “Cool Thing” is a lazy, lilting number that has a hummable melody. Hullabaloo, on the other hand, opens strong with the Robert Johnson-esque “Through the Fence”. “The Hoot Song”, which closes this set, features adorable backing from the twin brothers that are the offspring of songwriter and frontman Kevin Blackwell, and the children even contributed to the development of the tune. In between, there’s a real bluesy swagger to the disc. Overall, Pasajero / Hullabaloo is more than an hour’s worth of some outstanding tunes, and, as far as double albums go, were this not released on a fairly new and small independent label, it would join the greats mentioned in the first paragraph. This is a double album par excellence, and confirms that Sassparilla is a band of real mastery of multiple genres.