Is All Over the Map
Thanks to limited exposure, I had no preconceptions about Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand — aside from it being his vehicle for his fractured troubadorian musings — before listening to Is All Over the Map. Now the mental picture I get of the band is of them standing atop a massive heap of half-dead, mis-strung instruments out in the Arizona desert, trying as best they can to recreate the songs they hear carried on the wind from miles off in the distance. There’s a beauty in the authenticity and in the heart of what Giant Sand do; there’s hardly a song on here that doesn’t sound like a speaker is on the bursting, awash in live wires. My favorite moment on the entire album is when midway through “NYC of Time” the hushed intro is doubled up, but off a beat. A measure of chaos ensues before the old beat is phased out and the song actually starts.
Even though the playing sounds haphazard, it takes seasoned musicians to run the stylistic gamut Gelb’s songwriting calls for: kitchen-sink folk (“Classico”) to minute ragtime (“Rag”), dust-caked rumbas (“Crackin Water”) to a Sex Pistols tribute (“Anarchistic Bolshevistic Cowboy Bundle”). Giant Sand might be all over the map, but they know how to get where they want to go and have no trouble soundtracking how to get there, even when it takes them down paths rock music rarely treads.
Thrill Jockey: www.thrilljockey.com