Music

Willard Grant Conspiracy: Regard the End

Jason MacNeil

Willard Grant Conspiracy

Regard the End

Label: Kimchee
US Release Date: 2004-02-17
UK Release Date: 2004-06-09
Amazon
iTunes

The Willard Grant Conspiracy have recently done a bit of experimentation but some not of their own choosing. After doing a collaboration with Telefunk that had mixed results, the band set out from its trusty confines of Boston to head out West to desert country without the big label behind them. Lead singer Robert Fisher is still doling out those alt.country gems that the band has perfected the last four albums, but with some 30 musicians lending a hand, one might think that too many cooks are spoiling the musical broth here. However, the songs and the craftsmanship going into each is quite evident just by listening to the first song, "River in the Pines", a track from the Alan Lomax collection that could be the perfect melding of Marty Robbins and the Handsome Family. Featuring fiddle and a slight Latin or Mexican feeling, the track slinks along with Fisher's vocals the focal point. And from that point on, Willard Grant Conspiracy take you down another dark and dirty road.

"The Trials of Harrison Hayes" isn't a traditional number like the previous one, but the tone and feel is there. Assisted by Jess Klein on harmony vocals, the song is a contemporary version of mountain music. "If the spirit moved my words / I'm sure that my words would be miss-heard [sic]", Fisher sings before a lovable fiddle and piano play off one another. And the refrain goes on just long enough without being considered filler. A lot of these songs could also be mistaken for Celtic or Irish ballads, especially the mandolin-driven "Beyond the Shore". Fisher seems to recall Springsteen and the Clancy Brothers on this track as he talks about moving on and a "long black veil". Josh Hillman's violin also adds the perfect touch on the bridge. Another accompaniment takes place on "The Ghost of the Girl in the Well", with Kristin Hersh giving great vocals as Fisher weaves between speaking and singing the lyrics. There is also a touch of quirky spacey rock to the song, possibly from the saw David Michael Curry uses here, creating more tension as the song creeps along.

Willard Grant Conspiracy seem content on moving through this record with a feeling that there is little else to do or care about besides taking the time to enjoy the ride. "Twistification" is another gorgeous performance that brings to mind Dylan or Young circa Silver & Gold as Fisher talks about leading her like a pigeon. Here, though, the song seems to lose just a bit the longer it goes, although there are some shining moments near the conclusion. A blues-based "Another Man Is Gone" is more aggressive and tense, resembling the latest album from Eels with Hillman's violin falling in line with that of John Cale. Fisher lets loose here vocally, with better than expected results. Unfortunately, the band tends to go off the rails with the pop infected, trumpet-laced "Soft Hand", which has a basic chord structure but seems out of place with the rest of the album. Jess Klein and Blake Hazard guest on the song, but Fisher seems ready to carry it himself.

"Rosalee" goes back to the original sound of the record: sparse, singer-songwriter driven, and quite lovable. The music is also given enough room to breathe, something few bands are capable of, but Golden Smog comes to mind on this track. Sounding as if they're recording it in one take in one room, Fisher seems to get the most out of his musicians. "Fare Thee Well" is another traditional-sounding tune that is probably the sleeper on the record -- weary but still treading water, Klein's vocals are eerily similar to those of Emmylou Harris. And just when you want the album to go on another five or six tracks, Fisher ends it with "The Suffering Song", a perfect closer that is slow, somewhat morose but with a bit of light at the end. "The suffering going to come to everyone someday", Fisher sings to finish a record that has not one suffering second. This album should solidify them among Americana's best!


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.