Music Reviews

Strapping Fieldhands

The Third Kingdom

Omphalos

First of all: great band name. Top marks on that.

Second of all: I hated this album the first time I heard it. I thought it was lo-fi aesthetics taken way too far; I thought it was a mockery of music and a waste of my time; I thought maybe it might be fun to hear this record if you were drunk or deaf or teaching a class about how to ruin the music industry from within. I was fully convinced that these five guys from Philly were taking the piss for 43 straight minutes, and I hated them for it.

Third of all: I was in a bad mood that day. Now, it’s growing on me. So what if they never sound in tune? So what if they have an entire bandmember devoted to playing bouzouki and violin? So what if they sound like they could drink any historical version of Guided By Voices under the table? I like it.

Basically, this is art music crossed with alt.folk…but with a fuck-it attitude and a need for patience. Seriously, you won’t really understand the beginning of “Eager Girl” until the fourth time you hear it, but when it sinks in (“It’s not the kind of gum you chew / Or the way you part your hair”), you’ll kind of love it, and the dual vocal “stylings” of Bob Malloy and Jacy Webster. If you have any patience at all.

“GBV with acoustic guitars” is an okay reference point, but the ‘Hands are less enthralled with British invasion pop and more into… geez, I don’t know what the hell to call this. “Bobby’s Hobby” slouches sexily towards Babylon; “Panic in the Commune” shows off a nice metallic touch and a good paranoiac sense; and “Bag Balm” is worth mentioning just for its title, even though it’s only 14 seconds of cello-wank by bassist Bob Dickie.

This has gone from zero to neato in just a few listens. What will happen to my liking of this disc in the next month or so?


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