Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Film Review: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Believe me, watching a film's a big event in our household, due to our current schedule and the fact that The Wife tends to fall asleep during the first third, no matter what time we start it (all right, all right, stop laughing). It's funny: I prefer listening to music in isolation, but these days I think of films as social events and don't like watching alone.

Friday's film was Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which came pre-recommended since I quite liked Rushmore and also co-writer Noah Baumbach's first couple of films. Baumbach fell on hard times at the turn of the millennium, but fortunately has found his feet again, unlike certain other indie auteurs.

Bill Murray is very good as the deadpan title character, a borderline has-been Jacques Cousteau-type adventurer who's half action hero, half show-biz fake. The meat of the plot revolves around Zissou, at a turning point in his career and needing to prove something not least of all to himself, meeting up with Ned (Owen Wilson), who is presumed to be his son via one of many decades-old trysts. The two of them attempt to size each other up as they, along with crew ("Team Zissou") go off on a last-kick-at-the can adventure that ends up getting sidetracked more than once. It's an off-kilter, campy, slightly forlorn comedy that's visually smart and very fast-paced; scenes and dialogue are often carried across cuts with little or no pause. The first few minutes of the film show off name cast like a Robert Altman film, with rapid-fire appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Anjelica Houston and Noah Taylor.

The comparison to Rushmore is apt, because both it and TLAwSZ airdrop the viewer into a strange, hyper-realized world in medias res. I found that weird in the former, but managed to go with the flow because of its charm and the unfolding of plot; in the latter, it's much harder to find the way in. Jason Schwartzman's preternaturally clever Adrian Mole-type character was exceptional but understandable, whereas Zissou's motives are extremely hard to--forgive me--fathom, and you're never sure that he's not a complete phony and self-promoter (which may be the point, I suppose). The film is incredibly funny most of the time, but the plot turns mushy once the crew of the Belafonte set sail on their presumably last mission. The last hour is basically a caper comedy with complications developing between Murray, Wilson and lurve interest Cate Blanchett.

The Life Aquatic is recommendable for the visual style and the laughs alone (as well as the Portuguese versions of Bowie songs). It's also fairly consistent in its aesthetic, in that it's weird 'cos it's weird, rather than for weirdness' sake. I just wish that there was a little more steak here to go along with the sizzle.

Records In Review: Anthony Phillips--Field Day

A piece of advice to all y'all: don't order UK imports from Slothazon.comingsoonwepromise unless you don't have a choice. They've left me hanging well beyond the 2-3 week shipping estimate more than once.

Field Day is a long-time-coming 2-cd collection of acoustic guitar and stringed instrument pieces by Phillips, erstwhile member of Genesis from the dawny mists of time, when dinosaurs ruled the earth. His music has been described as a sort of tails to his former band's heads, a possible route for Gabriel and the boys if they hadn't decided to go all theatrical and generally rock out. He plays stuff very much in the English tradition--and when I say that, I mean from Dowland onward--with spread-out, overripe chords, incredible gentleness and only rare intersections with contemporary trends and practices. His actual living is keyboard-based library music (i.e., multi-purpose material for use by television companies, etc.) and commissions, but he's maintained a fairly regular output of albums over the past thirty years as well. A lot of his music makes excellent pm listening, a quality that I certainly don't sneer at anymore.

For those interested, I recommend checking out this book, which was part of the prog critical re-evaluation of the mid-to-late '90s and which contains a substantial section on Phillips as one of the genre's career rebels (the others being Fripp, Hammill and Oldfield).

I was a little wary of this one, as over the years I've tended to prefer AP's mixed-instrument recordings. His twelve-string album from the early '80s, appropriately titled Private Parts & Pieces V: Twelve, I found unfocused and meandering. Not to worry, though, as this one's definitely a keeper, and with enough variety to keep most devotees (and some others) happy. There's over a dozen different fretted creatures used, from 6-, 10- and 12-strings to cittern and bazouki, all evoking their own particular mood. Each instrument gets more-or-less its own chunk of the album. As far as the material goes, there are multi-part suites, longer works, one-offs, and brief impressions or bits of atmosphere. Many of the pieces within each instrumental sub-grouping are at least associated, if not deliberately continuous. Phillips' playing is in top form, and the recorded sound is excellent.

I like disc one better, as there are more things that grab your attention. The centrepiece is probably the "Concerto de Alvarez," an eight-minute 12-string piece with a lot of momentum that combines the guitarist's customary Spanglish motifs with some post-Genesis grandeur. The eight-part "Parlour Suite," on the other hand, is an incredibly restrained chamber piece (and on an interesting-sounding instrument--can't find a link to the maker) that contains nary a hint of rockism at all. Of the shorter pieces, there's another 12-string, "White Spider," which combines atmospherics and structure well; the title track, a shortie that has a lovely counterpointed melody; and "Bel Ami," named for the type of cittern used, which'll have you tapping your toes, or whatever it is you do to signify enjoyment.

Disc two is 3 parts wistful, 2 sombre and 1 light-hearted and as such, it's a little tougher going. My favourite tracks are some of the heavier-sounding ones, like the slower-than-slow-paced 10-string opener "Weeping Willow" and "Fallen City," a bazouki piece that starts like Chopin's Raindrop thingy and then really gets 'er going, like an angry Brit with, um, a bazouki. "Mudlark" is the album's sole mandolin piece and it's bright and shiny, alternating between 3- and 4-time. Some of the 6- and 12-string material on the second half is maybe too metrical and controlled for its own good, a complaint that I sometimes read about Phillips' guitar work.

There's a hell of a lot of music to go through here, well over two hours' worth, but the running order is well chosen, and in any case it's nice to cross-reference tracks and compare the sounds of the various instruments...even if you're not a geetar geek. Strongly recommended, if you can find it.

Simple Minds: An Appreciation, Part The Third

(continued--parts 1 & 2)

Back in '82, and what a year it was, there wasn't much that was bigger among my circle than New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84). Still largely considered to be Simple Minds' ne plus ultra, their magnificent octopus, etc., ad nauseum, this album is so iconic according to my memory banks that it's hard for me to analyze it. Looking at it now, I can see mighty strengths and a few weaknesses. On the plus side for a young teenager on the make, it was the first SM record that your girlfriend was likely to enjoy. Some of this is due to Jim Kerr's shift in lyrical emphasis from Euro-alienation to a brand of Catholic earnestness, and some to the giving over of the production reins to journeyman Peter Walsh, who infused NGD with a sound that is warm, lustrous and crystal clear, if a little vacuum-sealed for mid '00s ears. Sounds aren't echoing around in outer space, like on the last couple of albums; everything's very present, intimate and approachable, Kerr's vocals especially. Charlie Burchill's guitars are more upfront in the mix and generally brighter, and Mick MacNeil uses, as usual, a huge array of synth colours with a particular emphasis on mallet-percussion sounds. My big two cents: you'd be hard-pressed to find a finer display of the pop keyboardist's craft than right here.

Is this their best album? Hard to say, as long as no one's paying me for this. It's certainly very consistent, but I'm not sure it has the same appeal to me now that it once did. It's a more sensual aesthetic on display here, for sure, quite a change from the band's previously objective approach...and I liked the objective approach. The loss of forceful drummer Brian McGee has had a considerable effect on the back-line dynamic, especially as the drums here are provided by a barely-distinguishable consortium of players who take the word "restraint" very seriously. The bass groove, while still there in "Big Sleep" and the absomofolutely great "Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel," one of the group's finest songs, is becoming less of the foundation and/or not so dug-in when it's there, as in the occasionally hard-to-take "Glittering Prize." Song structure is much more conventional--only the searing title track has Sons And Fascination's free-floating tendencies--but the arrangements are beautiful and there's lots of sectional contrasts and colours.

Side one is a peach, with the aforementioned "Colours Fly," the bouncy explosion of sound that is "Promised You A Miracle," and crooner's delight "Someone Somewhere In Summertime," which sidles up to the listener like nobody's business. The instrumental "Somebody Up There Likes You," a mutant version of Sons' "Theme For Great Cities," is a sonic delight. Side two isn't quite as good. "Glittering Prize" sounds great but hasn't aged all that well, and I've always thought "Hunter And The Hunted" was the album's weak link, a sort of excessively dramatic version of "Someone Somewhere." "New Gold Dream" is mighty refreshing in its (relatively) visceral simplicity, and closer "King Is White And In The Crowd" has a nice sprawl and tension to it, kind of like Empires And Dance's "This Fear Of Gods" with some human feeling. All in all, an extremely easy album to like, and one that's for the most part deserving of its laurels, but one that might have had the shine worn off it for me by overexposure.

Yet yet more to follow...

Simple Minds: An Appreciation, Part The Second

(continued--part 1)

1980's Empires And Dance brings things into sharper focus. Austere, drawn-out, aesthetically strict and keyboard-heavy, this is by no means the easiest SM album to listen to, but it's very rewarding nonetheless. The keyboards cover more square footage here than on Real To Real, while the guitar is really pushed into the background; in fact, on "Today I Died Again" and "Celebrate" the layman [you mean people who aren't know-it-alls like you--ed.] would be hard-pressed to identify it at all. Lyrics on songs like "Capital City" and "This Fear Of Gods" are stripped down to bare necessities, as is song structure; "Gods" in particular is very static and almost hypnotic.

But, as with all SM albums, there's more variety than at first meets the ear, and the material here is very strong throughout. Side one is mostly weighty-sounding stuff best listened to loud, with "Celebrate" the best of the bunch and one of their best tunes full stop. "Today I Died Again" shows that the group knows the difference between menace and melodrama. I don't foresee ever tiring of "I Travel," such a neat amalgam of controlled energy, insect-like guitar explosions and semi-comical almost-Latin motifs. Side two is more offbeat and quite claustrophobic in places, particularly the incessant and production-heavy "Thirty Frames A Second" and "Twist/Run/Repulsion." "Constantinople Line" is better than I remember it; it's sparseness, sense of instrumental anticipation and unwillingness to resolve its own tension are a real fascination. It's not all doom and gloom, though, as again there's a touch of humour in the loping, descending keyboard melody on "Captial City," a nice contrast to the pounding drums and general weight of the piece. "Room," like "Scar" from Real To Real rounds things off as an effective palate cleanser. All told, not the most suitable album for the neophyte listener, but definitely the most cohesive of the first three.

Contrary to what The Nation's Music Station told me the other night, the Use Your Illusion albums were not the first simultaneously released albums by a rock band. 1981 saw the release of the twins Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call (the UK releases were evenly weighted, but in Canada Sons was tarted up with all the hits and Sister released as a five-song addendum ep; I'll split the difference and treat it as one record).

Opinion's somewhat divided on this one, but I've always found its vibe to be very appealing and an antidote to some of its deficiencies. It's their easiest album thus far to listen to; whether you view that as compliment or criticism is up to you. The sound's gentler and not so dense: it's mostly the four instrumentalists playing without the previous two albums' reliance on sound effects, processing and layering. The group opted for ex-Gong hippie-freak Steve Hillage as producer, with mixed results for the album: delightfully trippy and spaced-out in places, but also rather muddy and lacking in sonic detail and contrast in others (e.g., "20th Century Promised Land"). The instrumental balance is fairly similar to Empires And Dance, although with the guitar slightly more prominent in the mix and the keyboard sounds tending toward the sustained. Jim Kerr's sounding more confident: less tics and mannerisms, more singing.

None can escape the curse of the double-album, of course, but the material's 75-80% very good. The singles are all striking, if not uniformly brilliant. "Love Song," deservedly the band's first minor hit up in these parts, is the best of the three and like the rest, founded upon a killer Derek Forbes bass groove. "Sweat In Bullet" isn't quite the sum of its excellent parts, as it forces everything too rigidly into 4- and 8-bar chunks. "The American" kicks a modicum of buttock and has a sing-along chorus (sing-along word, at least), for those who enjoy such things. Of the rest, only "70 Cities" is a rival in terms of instant attention-grabbingness, and, like most good Minds songs of the period, is a great combo of front-line intricacy and monolithic rhythm section. Kerr really brings it here, and you gotta love that Angry Cow setting on the keyboard, too!

The remainder of the album(s) is mostly about flow, and I've always thought that several of the trippy songs, like "This Earth That You Walk Upon," the great instrumental "Theme For Great Cities" and the lovely "Seeing Out The Angel" would make a wonderful soundtrack for a space-exploration film--an impression unchanged with time. "In Trance As Mission" and "Boys From Brazil" are both repetitive structures in the manner of much of Empires And Dance, but it's a different kind of energy; tensions are released, rather than prolonged. "Wonderful In Young Life," "Careful In Career," and "League Of Nations" are the bean sprouts in this particular sonic spring roll. Sons/Sister is best viewed as a transitional work, but it's a very enjoyable one, if you're capable of going with the flow. As for what the band was transitioning to...

Yet more to follow...

Simple Minds: An Appreciation, Part The First

Simple Minds released a new album a few months ago that's seen them getting their best press in a long while. Should I care?

Jim Kerr and the boys were the absolute bees' knees for me when I was 15 or 16 (do the math). Teenage musical experiences, like their sexual counterparts, are as you know particularly vivid, and occasionally damaging. It's inevitable. Still, I have to fight the urge to throw punches whenever I hear boomers waffle on about El Beatellos and W-stock and all of those World-Changing Events, but every generation's the same really, if perhaps not so earnest in their retrospective utopian reveries. I loved Simple Minds and then I lost them, and, as my tastes moved away from their particular brand of musical austerity, I haven't really analyzed their ouevre in any substantial adult way since. Here goes nothing...

Simple Minds' 8 (or 7, depending on how you look at it) album releases between '79 and '85--you remember back in the day when bands didn't put out an album every three years?--showed remarkable development, to say the least. They started out as the scrag-end of a punk band with a Roxy Music fetish, went all experimental-like, then a bit spacey, and eventually turned out stadium rockers. It's hard to describe their sound simply, but minimalist would be the most appropriate word to use, although they never wore any aesthetic as a straight-jacket...except when they occasionally did.

Listening to the earlier albums now, I'm rediscovering how fascinating the band dynamic is. Repetitive bass and drum patterns are usually the foundation of the songs, but it's the interaction between guitarist Charlie Burchill and keyboardist Mick MacNeil that really makes things interesting. I don't know if there's ever been a rock guitarist less burdened by ego than Burchill, and he's a guy who's certainly never gotten the kudos he's due for his very non-traditional interpretation of the role of the instrument. MacNeil's keyboards provide the bulk of the sound and melody, but neither player is dominant and the sounds are so interwoven that it's often hard to pick out who played what, particularly on Empires And Dance and Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Crooner Jim Kerr makes his bread-and-butter on that space between the minor and major third, with a tremulous voice that obviously brings Brian Ferry to mind, although paired with mostly non-narrative lyrics that provide a degree of abstraction.

If I'd have heard Life In A Day upon its release, I don't think I would have been waiting with bated breath for album number two. Listening to it now, I realize it hasn't aged all that badly, actually, it's just that it doesn't sound much like the Simple Minds that people know (exhibit A: "Chelsea Girl"). It's got some spirit and charm, if a fair amount of duff songwriting and a youthful desire to fill up every available square inch of sonic space. It's the most obviously Roxy Music-inspired, with a fair whack of piano, but you can hear bits of early Ultravox as well as fellow countrymen The Skids, especially in the guitar playing in songs like "Sad Affair." The playing is tight and John Leckie's production is appropriately unadorned. The best songs are the title track, "Someone" and "Wasteland". And okay, I like "Chelsea Girl" too, if only for its kitsch value. 'Nuff said about that.

The great leap forward came with Real To Real Cacophony, also produced by Leckie, which was released just over six months after the debut. The album outer- and inner-sleeve layout screams out: minimalist, experimental, studio, modern. It's amazing how well this, The Minds' most unsettling and diverse album has held up over the years, and right now it's probably the one I'm most likely to pull out for a listen. There's still some high-tension new-wavery about the band here, noticeable on more conventional fare like "Calling Your Name," which is a better-realized and tempered version of the kind of thing that appeared on Life, but the album's principal influences are more electronic and experimental, which oddly enough results in a much tougher sounding record. The keyboards really cover the gamut, from the orchestral to the machine-age; the instrumental "Film Theme" is very early Human League, while the aforementioned "Calling Your Name" utilizes god knows how many different types of sounds and attacks. Brian McGee's drums are mostly processed, with a lot of different sounds and the first appearance of the unsnared snare. The guitar still lets rip in songs like the kick-ass "Premonition," but can also act as colour and texture in the more keyboard-heavy stuff.

Did I mention the material's diverse? Side one alone is a real trip, man, opening with the jerky yet spaced-out Euro-organ-pop of "Real To Real" and ending with "Cacophony" and "Veldt," the first two examples of the Simple Minds instrumental, which illustrate the group's moving away from traditional song form. "Changeling" is a brilliant, blistering bass hook-based pop song, one of their best. "Citizen" and "Factory" aren't too shabby, either. Perhaps Real To Real doesn't go out quite as boldly as it came in, but that's a minor quibble.

More to follow...

Records In Review: Kate Bush--Aerial

"Mummy, Daddy, the day is full of birds," says Kate Bush's young son at the beginning of the second of his mum's new 2cd set. Unfortunately for all of us, most of the fowl in question are named Tom, and are soon to be served up on millions of American dinner tables. Aerial has grown on me a little since the first listen, but it still has to rate as a major disappointment. I'd put it next to Lionheart as KB's worst record.

The material on display here isn't radically different, even after a 12-year hiatus, from what you'd expect from the artist. It's got less of the theatrics than previously, and the album certainly leans more toward flow than contrast (both between and within songs), but the motifs and lyrical themes are mostly familiar, although being a 47 year-old mum the adolescent phase appears to be over, finally! The real problem with the album is a certain lack of conviction of performance; you wait and wait for things to catch fire, but they never do. The vocals are very underpowered, often sounding like they're for private rather than public consumption (Bush isn't a live performer, of course, which doesn't help). Apart from piano and bass guitar, most of the accompaniment is just that, and not particularly helped by a bottom-heavy mix that acts to smooth out any potential spikiness.

Disc one, A Sea of Honey, is comprised of self-contained songs and is the better of the two. "Pi" is a great tune; it's based around a 3/4 sequenced organ pattern and has some great fretless playing and a very loosely-rhythmed vocal line. "King Of The Mountain" isn't the most immediately appealing KB single, but it's a grower with a nice skanking-paced rock groove and some of the more spirited singing on the album. "How To Be Invisible," like most of the album, goes on a bit long but manages to work up a little bit of menace--a quality not abundant here. The rest of the disc is so-so. "Bertie" is a nice little slice of medievalism and a reminder that, with the possible exception of S. Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," songs in praise of children and spouses should be banned. The two mostly piano songs "Mrs. Bartolozzi" and "A Coral Room" are fairly ponderous (the latter is better) and don't develop much despite the emotive lyrics. "Joanni" features a good vocal performance and nice chorus hook, but comes awfully close in feel to Enigma or mid-'90s Mike Oldfield territory. And that's not good.

The second disc, A Sky of Honey, is, well, pretty pointless, to be honest. It's a continuous episodic piece that's meant to represent a day's passage. What a very, very dull day Kate must have had. I've listened to it several times and I still have difficulty remembering much about the individual pieces, it's all so structurally flaccid. Everything feels dragged out beyond its useful length, particularly the latter bits like "Nocturn" and the title track. "An Architect's Dream" is pretty, with (again) nice fretless playing and some effective keyboard contrasts, and might work better in a different context, but "Sunset" is pure Gypsy Kings cheeze. I really can't think of much else to say. Perhaps it's best viewed as chill-out music for recovering Romantics, I don't know.

The experience of listening to Aerial in its totality makes me wonder: was there anything there really, apart from the (prolonged) adolescent dramatics? I don't know, but I certainly hope that Bush doesn't let this sit as her final musical statement. Recommendation: Kate fans, you can't go home again.

Update: I may have confused some upright bass for fretless, silly me, but checking it out would involve listening to the album again: pass.

Records In Review: The Magic Numbers--The Magic Numbers

Laid-back old-school popsters The Magic Numbers, fronted by Trinidad-born Romeo Stodart, are a current Brit cause celebre, having recently won Mojo's Best New Act award, beating out, among others, one Rufus Wainwright (whose first album came out seven years ago). My copy of their debut cd sported a review snippet from said magazine, along the lines of this being destined to be "the" album of 2005. And the British music press wonder why Americans laugh at them. Oh, sorry, I forgot: The Scissor Sisters are the best pop band in the world.

This is an album that I was born to hate. It's wimpy, with lovey-dovey lyrics, '60s hippie harmonies, a twangy and occasionally cornball lead singer, and only slightly more musical tension than Mannheim Steamroller. But I kind of like it. And that bothers me. Big time.

It's not perfect by any means. The album's over an hour long, and would be better at forty-five to fifty minutes with the excision of a few songs, as the second half's got an awfully slow pace. The harmonic bolt is shot by the time you get two-thirds of the way through. But there's stuff to like here, too. The basic three-piece set-up plus melodica(!) is augmented by some very nice (and beautifully articulated) harmony and duet vocals, and the band dynamic is urbane in a good way, with the soft-attack bass generally acting as the linchpin--at least for the more up-tempo tracks. A number of the songs, even the so-so ones, drift off into little sidebars that keep you interested, and there's also some very nice and subtle shifts in mood and texture, as in the gentle duet "I See You, You See Me" and also "Forever Lost." Not a lot of histrionics here, and that's a plus.

I try not to read stuff about anyone I'm going to review, but I note from second-hand reports that The Mamas And The Papas have been cited as ancestors. I don't know that much of them other than the obvious, and wouldn't admit it if I did, but I can't really see it, to be honest. The influence I pick up a lot here--I kid you not--is The Strokes. Listen to the tracks "Long Legs," "Forever Lost" and the big pop tune "Love Me Like You," imagine distorted guitars, fuzzy vocals and an inflexible rhythm section, and there you go. They certainly use the same kind of pre-Beatle motifs as their bread-and-butter. The Numbers do the slow stuff too, though, and most of it's good, like the chord-wandery "Which Way To Happy" and the incredibly still duet "Wheels On Fire" (no, not THAT one). The '60s road leads Mr. Stodart into downtown Cheezeburgh a few times, unfortunately: the doo-woppy break in opener "Mornings Eleven" is hard to take, and "Don't Give Up The Fight" sounds like a bad imitation of The Style Council (minus the 'tude).

The Magic Numbers will grow on you like the pervasive fungus that I'm sure it is, so don't look it in the eyes, or you'll never escape. Now, how's that for a mixed metaphor? Recommended, if you can get past the first couple of listens.

P.S. I've just noticed that omnipresent allmusic reviewer S.T. Erlewine has gone apoplectic beaters on the album in a thesis-length piece. Wow.

Records In Review: Jason Collett--Idols Of Exile

This is the most recent solo record by Torontonian Collett. It comes in a nicely designed paper sleeve, featuring a charcoal-drawn profile of the singer looking like a Law and Order perp who's been nabbed for credit card fraud (as seems to be the norm for Canadian indie musicians at the moment). He's on the Arts & Crafts label, home to Broken Social Scene, among others; in fact, the album features contributions from members of BSS, as well as other local indie heroes Metric, Stars and KC Accidental. Up-and-comer Leslie Feist contributes some backing vox.

Idols of Exile is mostly acoustic countryish stuff, but there's some jangle-pop, indie sonics and a considerable helping of camp. A lot of the songs are ripely (but gently) orchestrated in the style of Collett's aforementioned contemporaries, with lots of horns, and the odd banjo and mandolin thrown in, and in fact the mood of a couple of the songs, like the relaxed opener "Fire," evoke the quieter moments of BSS. Pacing is very slow to mid, matching the singer's groaning, achy delivery.

This is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the album is too self-aware for its own good, in my not so humble opinion. The Rufus Wainrightesque (Collett's voice resembles RW in terms of delivery) OTT numbers "Hangover Days" and "Brownie Hawkeye" are nicely crafted but just too too much. The more straightforward tracks are better, like the Blue Rodeo-ish "We All Lose One Another" and the happy jangle-pop "I'll Bring The Sun," although "Pink Night," with its (I think) obvious Band allusions and arch Dylan vocal outtro is one of the more rousing songs. The quieter moments like "Tinsel And Sawdust" are okay, but tend to flatline due to JC's whispered vocal style, which doesn't exactly turn this mutha out. "Parry Sound" is kinda pretty, but as the lyrics talk only about trees, rocks and lakes and make no mention of the Stockey Centre/Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, colour me disappointed. The lyrics--mostly reminiscences--are very good, although a little impenetrable at times: "It was in your basement apartment/with all of its earth and sea." You might want to ask the landlord to get an inspector in, Jace.

Idols Of Exile is a pleasant, if unexciting listen, interrupted by the occasional bit of annoyance. Recommended to those who have a higher country and camp tolerance than me.