Thursday, July 30, 2009

Son Volt's Long, Slow Trip

The new Son Volt effort, American Central Dust, has me thinking about driving across Nebraska in the summer time (and I don't mean the short way, I mean east-to-west or west-to-east). Here's the deal.

I have driven across Nebraska in the summer, both directions, a few times. There is no way to get around the fact that it is a long drive and as you make your way, you can't help but be amazed at the sameness as you pass mile after mile. There are wonderments along the way, like the moments when the Platte drops down and winds around the highway and you can't imagine how that water keeps moving through this flat plain and isn't it wonderful how it connects the mountain water from the east of the continental divide with the big ole' Miss. Or when you hit the western end of the state as you start climbing into Wyoming and the outcroppings of rock begin to appear and the fields of sunflowers bending to the slanting sunset stretch for miles. But ultimately, when you are driving through Nebraska, you are generally pretty much just looking forward to being in Wyoming or Iowa and, well, that is saying something isn't it?
And that is how I feel about the new album. There are a few interesting moments here and there, but the sameness comes across less as a well thought-out consistent collection and more as a somewhat unimaginative routine effort. I have put this album on a lot in the last few weeks since I got it along with the new Wilco album (couldn't help it), but I continue to find myself losing attention and then wondering where I am--what song I am currently listening to as it sounds a lot like the other songs?
The album opens just fine, but then never really goes anywhere. There are moments when you say that is a nice waltz, or nice low-key growly guitar, or etc. But there are just as many times that it is unremarkable at best. I could kind of dig the long, slow musical dirge as I watch the miles past theme if the lyrics were stronger, but they end up being somewhere between overstated to bad poetry for the most part.
Now, I am over-doing it a bit here--I am still hoping for another Son Volt album that I can really dig, but for now, I am going to always choose Trace or The Search from the spectrum of SV albums before this one.
So before this post starts to feel like dirving across Nebraska, here are a couple tunes to give you a sample. It was hard to choose given the sameness of the album, but here is the opener and one of the few electric guitar tunes on the album.

Son Volt (Buy Album)


Payton said...

I couldn't agree more.

There was a time - when I was blown away by Trace - that I would've argued Son Volt > Wilco, but I just can't anymore. And with each album, I realize more and more that this is due to Jay's monotone voice. Wilco (The Album) is a much more interesting listen...

Nelson said...


The whole time we were having this Son Volt discussion over at my site, I had no idea you had already written about it over here. I thought you had hung up your blogging shoes, and I didn't come here for a while.

Glad to have you back.

craig p said...

Thanks Nelson--couldn't stay away!

Album a Day said...

That's kind of the way I've always felt about Son Volt. There seems to be quiet Son Volt and full band Son Volt, and that is it. I've never been able to get into the subtleties because it mostly just bores me.