Monday, April 09, 2007

Son Volt - The Search

Son Volt
The Search
Grade: C-

Son Volt - "Slow Hearse"

Way back in the day, right after the split of Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, Son Volt was prophesied to trounce all over Wilco. And that was with good reason: Son Volt's debut was much stronger than Wilco's A.M.

But time and Tweedy make asses of us all.

Eclipsed by the press over Wilco's yet-unreleased Sky Blue Sky, Son Volt's latest, The Search has so far been a fairly quiet release. But I got you Son Volt right here.

The Search sounds so incredibly tired. The album starts with "Slow Hearse," which has exactly zero energy. Farrar follows up with "The Picture" and "Action," which really showcase how ... limited his vocal range is. I think Farrar's voice is the biggest impediment to this record. Farrar has never been a hugely expressive vocalist, but on The Search, he sounds tired on top of it all. It's hard to connect with him because of how flat and stiff he sounds.

Well, that and the fact that he sings about a "burning wall of eternity" on this record. That's just too hard to take seriously. That's not good lyric writing; that's the type of metaphor a fifteen year old uses when describing a long-distance relationship kept alive using AIM. I can just see it now:

DragonFyre1996: how's it going?

PugBug985763: fine, but I feel like theres a burning wall of eternity keeping me from you.

DragonFyre1996: yah, babe. I know.

AIM and LiveJournal are where phrases like that belong, Not on Son Volt records.

Looked at on a whole, this record is pretty middle-of-the-road. A lot of it feels like Farrar is having a hard time getting his footing. The record draws in lots of far-flung influences, like Zep and R.E.M. The problem is that the diversity doesn't really gel, and ends up feeling scattered and disorganized.

"Satellite" is easily the best song on the album. It feels a lot more like Son Volt than anything else on the record. There's a lot more energy and vibrancy on this one track than on half of the other tracks on the album combined. A close runner up is "Circadian Rhythms," which digs a little deeper into Farrar's alt-country roots and sports a heavy R.E.M. influence. Much like "Satellite," what really makes this track stick out is its energy.

Unfortunately, that's the bottom line to this album: Songs like "Satellite" stick out because the rest of the album sounds damn exhausted. However, on a brighter note, Son Volt puts on a blistering live show and can be seen on Monday in the First Ave Main Room.

(April Wright)

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