Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Avett Brothers - The Second Gleam

Avett Brothers
The Second Gleam (American/Columbia, 2008)
Grade: C

Download: Avett Brothers - "Tear Down The House"
Download: Avett Brothers - "Murder In The City"

The Avett Brothers lead songwriter Scott Avett has always been one of the least sympathetic figures in folk music. Well, at least I thought that impression was justified until I heard The Second Gleam, the sequel to 2006's The Gleam.

Weighing in at just under a half hour, The Second Gleam represents the group's most mellow–-and incidentally, most boring--effort to date. Right from the beginning of the album, heartbreak is put out front and center as the defining emotion. "I have no memory of who I once was/And I don't remember your name,"; "laments amid images of childhood haunts being bulldozed and treasured passions being left. Clearly, "Tear Down The House", the album's first track, is meant to emphasize the split between the group's grunge-grass roots and their current path.

It's effective, for a little bit. The mood on The Second Gleam is more somber than ever and carries few hints of the Bros. rough-and-tumble past. This approach simply doesn't work for the rest of the album. There has never been anything extraordinary about the Avett Brothers, aside from their ability to infuse the irritable passion of punk rock into otherwise ordinary folk songs. Stripped down to just a banjo, a guitar and a whole lot of somber, The Second Gleam would be excusable for a young, inexperienced band, but not for a band with eight studio albums.

Stripped of their one defining feature, the Avett Brothers sound like any other folk band. The Second Gleam is a listenable album, but nothing about it really stands out. And it makes the Bros. worst feature stand out even more obviously. Scott Avett's lyrics have always been a mix of adequate, lovably inept, and bad. But said lack of quality was always easier to overlook when the whole standard of quality of their music was higher. But when I'm bored out of my skull by the album, it's not nearly as easy to overlook the clunkers Avett turns out. I get it. You can rhyme a word with the same word. Lovely. Now stop. If the Bros. are going to move towards a more reserved sound, they're going to have to stop writing like 16-year-olds.

(April Wright)

The Avett Brothers MySpace Page

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