Music

Virgin Forest: Easy Way Out

David Maine

Is the thumbs-down photo on the cover a clever bit of self-criticism?


Virgin Forest

Easy Way Out

Label: Partisan
US Release Date: 2012-01-31
UK Release Date: 2012-01-31
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

The ratio of mellow tunes to rocking numbers on Easy Way Out, the sophomore full-length from four-piece outfit Virgin Forest, is slightly more than 2:1. That's too bad, because it's exactly the opposite of what it should be. Virgin Forest play simple, straightforward music, with unsurprising chord progressions and lyrics whose repetitiveness borders on the inane. This can work just fine in a hard-charging, overdiven rock song. In a mellow acoustic-based number, though, such elements veer dangerously close to dullness. Such is the case here.

Easy Way Out opens with the monumentally ill-judged one-two salvo of "Don't Be Afraid" and "Different Blues," a couple of acoustic-guitar snoozers notable mainly for their remarkably repetitive lyrics. The first song, especially, features few if any words other than those in the title, intoned over and over and over and over and over by lead singer Scott Stapleton. Stapleton's voice is competent but hardly outstanding, so the recurring litany fails to do much besides reinforce the paucity of lyrical ideas on display.

Two songs in, then, the listener could be forgiven for wondering what else s/he has to listen to. Fear not, though: help is on the way, in the form of "Get Away," the record's best song by a mile. Here, the recurring chant of "Get away, get away, get away" makes perfect sense, invoking a sense of stoned-out urgency that punctuates the squalling bed of fuzzed-laden, protesting guitars. After the bland mediocrity of the first two songs, "Get Away" acts as a welcome slap across the chops, a blast of angst-driven attitude that — please, oh please — suggests more to come.

That's the good news. The bad news is that two more dull, unmemorable songs follow: "Big Old Mama" and "Song For Nino", which appears to be addressed to the singer’s dog. How cute! Not really.

"Easy Way Out" follows, and the album's title track is, happily, another fuzz-driven scorcher, but its 2:14 only teases the listener who is looking to settle into something for a while. By this point it has become apparent that the band's repertoire doesn't feature much in the way of extended solo jams or multi-part song structures. Okay, fine — but a bit more milking of the grooves that they do create would be mightily welcome.

"Home Alone" is a midtempo song whose country flair changes the album's texture somewhat, while "Lifted" brings us once again into ass-thumping, distortion-laden rock territory. With its almost industrial rhythms, off-the-wall vocal stylings and slamming percussion, "Lifted" is the album's second highlight, and the listener happily settles in for its four or five minutes to play out — only to be disappointed by a paltry running time of 1:59.

So it goes. "Antichrist Blues" sports a more complex sonic palette and engaging lyrics, but again is over too soon. "I Might Get High" ends the album as weakly as "Don't Be Afraid" starts it, with a forgettable midtempo tune devoid of hooks or musical interest of any sort. Even the band seems to lose interest, as the song, and the album, just withers away toward the end, with no conclusion or sense of finality.

For those keeping score, that's three good songs to seven mediocre ones, with all the good songs of the let's-rock-the-house-down variety. Virgin Forest seems committed to the alt-rock, folkie version of modern pop music, which is a shame. For a band that can kick out the jams as well as these guys do, it's too bad they can't work up the energy to do it more often.

4

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image