Music

Ticonderoga: The Heilig-Levine LP

Hunter Felt

Don't be fooled, on occasion Ticonderoga sounds like a rock band, but it's not. I don't know quite what it is, but it's not a rock band.


Ticonderoga

The Heilig-Levine LP

Label: 54 40' Or Fight
US Release Date: 2005-10-04
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

You have to respect a band that begins an album full of oblique genre-defying patchwork songs and snippets of melodic noise with a chorus that pointedly declares that the singer is "Just fuckin' around". It is, however, an entirely disingenuous claim, as there is plenty of meaning deep bellow Ticonderoga's ramshackle compositions on The Heilig-Levine LP. In fact, there may be too much meaning and too many ideas bubbling underneath this album's surface, conflicting and contradicting each other, resulting in a curious and often glorious mess.

This is my second attempt at cracking the enigma that is Ticonderoga, and while the band's second album (as compared to its folk-flavored self-titled debut) appears, at least on the surface, to be a more straightforward rock album, a few minutes of listening reveals that the band does not quite know how to rock, preferring to rehash all the signifiers of "rocking out" devoid of any passion or insider knowledge. Ticonderoga plays rock and roll like as if it were a foreigner speaking phonetically spelled-out English on a page, getting all the sounds right but just missing the meaning. Take "Centipede", the multi-segmented album highlight that starts as a melodic folk-rocker, but somehow recedes into a techno aside, that is then interrupted by an off-tune a-cappella section. In the middle of this schizoid progression, the band finds itself in rock mode, but somehow manages to capture the essence of post-rock without shedding any of rock and roll's trappings. Electric guitar? Check. Pummeling tempo changes, driven by the drummer? Check. Screaming, untrained vocals? Check, check, double check. Still, it's all a pose, no matter how loud they crank up the amplifiers. It even seems quiet when it's loud. "Poison Control", which sounds a little like Pavement making fun of the Strokes, is perhaps the clearest example of the anti-rock rock-and-roll attitude, as the singer's lackluster apathy appears to be coming from an entirely different universe than the repetitive trash rock occurring behind him, frustrating the music's attempt to turn the song into something more conventional.

Even then, these rock songs are the exceptions. The majority of The Heilig-Levine LP is dedicated to melancholy quasi-folk songs that are typically interrupted by abrupt changes of pace. In my previous review I remarked how the band uses dream logic to drive its songs, is not afraid to lose any possible narrative tracks, to jarringly switch thematic gears in seconds' time, and generally eschews any sense of cause-and-effect logic at any point during a composition. The liner notes for the new album, however, reveal exactly why Ticonderoga's songs, let alone albums, fail to morph into any sort of recognizable pattern. It turns out that Ticonderoga has no leader, and any track credited to Ticonderoga could feature any combination of the band's three members (who are not given specific instrument credits). Often a band member takes someone else's song and adds certain parts to it. It seems to me that many of these tracks were probably stitched together between several people's short compositions, flung together collage-like in a Frankenstein manner.

The band, apparently, has grown weary of this sort of experimentation, and is looking to create songs in a more straightforward manner. While the results of this current approach, at least the cherry-picked selection represented on The Heilig-Levine LP, are worthwhile and interesting, Ticonderoga will ultimately benefit from a more thought-out, cohesive approach to songwriting. The problem with coming into a creative situation with the thought of "anything can happen", is that the results are going to reveal the flaws in one's own creativity. Ticonderoga's flaw is this, and its debut, is, to quote Yeats, "the center cannot hold". Very rarely do any of these songs remain consistently entertaining, only certain melodic bits or occasional lyrics remain stuck in one's head after the album is finished. Over the course of two unconventional albums, Ticonderoga has found a unique sound (or, to be more to the point, about a dozen unique sounds), and now its goal is to perfect it and think about focusing and creating a genuinely consistent and coherent album.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image