The Extra Glenns
Martial Arts Weekend
The Extra Glenns are an extra-special sort of supergroup. Both John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) and Franklin Bruno (Nothing Painted Blue) have gained reputations as solo visionaries, self-contained musical universes whose music seems to spring full-formed. I’ve been enthusiastic about their work before, but not quite as enthusiastic as I am about The Extra Glenns. Darnielle’s music, while lent authenticity by the fact that it is always recorded on a boom box, often sounds cramped and thin, probably because it is always recorded on a boom box (though his plaintive voice and true-to-life lyricism can always carry the day). Bruno’s pop style often seems to veer towards the self-referential, some may say self-indulgent. On this album, those rough edges dovetail perfectly, making for a solid whole.
Musically, Martial Arts Weekend is anchored by Darnielle’s distinctive guitar strumming and voice. Around this solid foundation, Bruno lays nice flourishes of guitar, piano and what-not. Percussion is mostly absent but not sorely missed – there’s enough going on to keep things interesting. “All Rooms Cable A/C Free Coffee” is a love story developing in a motel, with some assuring bass on the bottom and wistful lyrics on top. Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” is given a minimal treatment, with Darnielle reminiscing sweet, sour and youthful against a solitary piano.
The Extra Glenns are like a rare quantum collision – the sparks thrown off are nothing like what the equations predict, and it’ll take years to sort out the consequences of that single event. Martial Arts Weekend provides more than a new facet for familiar artists; it’s an album that solidly stands on its own.
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