Goliath, I’m On Your Side
I’m not sure what happened to Hotel Alexis’s Sidney Alexis between the release of their debut The Shining Example is Lying on the Floor and the follow-up Goliath, I’m on Your Side but I’m adding those events to the list of things I’ll change if I’m ever in possession of a time machine. One of the better surprises in indie folk last year, Shining Example found its strength in humble, traditional arrangements and melodies. It’s aim was folk before indie and with more and more singer/songwriters thinking they need to express themselves experimentally, that album was a familiar and welcoming place to hang your hat.
Goliath gives the initial impression that it’s going to be the natural extension of its predecessor’s sound, with the dusty, weather-beaten opener “Soft Soft War,” which is cosily inviting with a playful doo-doo refrain, but even as early as the second track, “San Diego Backslide,” and the subtle intrusion of technology in the mix, it’s obvious Alexis is looking to join the ranks of provocateurs of unnecessarily weird americana like Castanets and Wilco. There’s no need to look further than the short-lived ambient ellipsis “Thicket” for the former, or the oh-so-close-to-plagiarism “The Devil Knows My Handle” for the latter. I have no beef with either of these tracks, per se, aside from the fact their existence almost acts as an enabler for “Hummingbird/Indian God” and “Oh, the Lonliness,” two obnoxiously long — “Hummingbird” almost hits 19 minutes — pieces of free-form avant-folk jamming. There’s a little bit of rhythm, a little bit of melody and a whole lot of dead weight on both of these tracks. It’s really a shame that there’s so little on here as commanding or arresting as the material that made up Shining Example. At is core this disc suffers from a lack of passion, or at least a surplus of boredom. I have to wonder if the refrain “don’t you know, it’s gonna wear you out” from “Owl” is directed at the listener, because if it is, we can’t say Alexis didn’t warn us.
Broken Sparrow Records: www.brokensparrow.com