Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sup' Mag reviews Yonder is the Clock

Be sure to check out 'Sup's interview and photo feature on the Felice Brothers in Issue 18!
Thumbnail image for yonderistheclock-300x300.jpg BAND: THE FELICE BROTHERS ///

I made 3 New Year Resolutions for 2009:

1) Wear more suits.
2) Dance more.
3) You don’t need to know about the third one.

What has this in relation to the Felice Brothers' new album Yonder Is The Clock?

Well – the suit thing doesn’t really. However – Dance More – oh yes. Let’s get this out of the way early – this album made me want to dance. Whether it was a slow country waltz, in checked shirts and braces, or whether it was a bit of a high knee ding dong with a bunch of cider drunks hooking arms and swinging about. This album has got rhythm. It’s also got style. But in a buck-tooth geeky country folk blues credible kinda way.

If you so choose, do a quick Google™ search on the Felice Brothers – you’ll find a tonne of references to Bob Dylan’s the Band, and a few comparisons to Woody Guthrie. Ok – so there are some similarities – and it gives you a vague idea of what you’re letting yourself in for, but it’s an easy and lazy reference to make.

I’m reluctant to leave it at that. For one, the FB’s lead singer Ian can actually sing in tune, compared to Dylan’s off-key drawl. Yes, it’s a gruff voice, yes, at times it sounds slightly strained, and yes, it’s in need of a glass of milk to cool it down.

But combine this raw vocal, with Simone’s drums, James’ accordion/piano/organ, Christmas’ bass, and Farley’s washboard and fiddle – you suddenly get this feeling of warmth, mud and beer. I never got that feeling from a Dylan track.

So let’s get into the detail. Yonder is the Clock is the follow-up to their self-titled record released in 2008.

To give you a bit of a back-story – this was recorded in a studio built by the band from the remains of an abandoned chicken coup, where they had to run the power from the main building across the yard and into the coup.

The title of the album is lifted from the pages of Mark Twain, in homage to all the characters and influences that have made this record. The album overflows – with tales of chickens (at least 2 mentions), a British gent who is razor-sharp as hell (I like to think they are referring to me), ambulances, jail cells and phantoms. This is such a refreshing change from the maudlin songs about teenage angst that litter our radios. Songs with real meaning.

I’m not going to give you a song-by-song synopsis – it’ll spoil the surprise – but I will give you a couple of notable highlights.

"Penn Station" is a marvelous recording. Ian’s voice seems to really take you to a place you didn’t think imaginable. His croaky, crackling voice singing to you about a guy who died at Penn Station, with a nickel in his hand that shines like the star of Bethlehem, catching the train to heaven. Sounds morbid – but the magnificent instrumental two minutes in makes you realise it’s anything but.

"Chicken Wire" is a strange song about being wrapped in chicken wire in the ocean, trying to fight off the sharks, comparing life to Ann Boleyn. Does it have any deeper meaning? I have no idea. Did it make me do a slightly weird knee-bend foot-shuffle dance whilst I cooked spaghetti bolognese? You bet.

"Run Chicken Run" mentions that British chap with razor-sharp wit, but whom the chicken (A bird? A lady? Who knows?) needs to run away from (maybe I shouldn’t want to this to be referring to me), but again, it’s got such an upbeat tempo, it reminds me of being drunk on pear cider and seeing dancing men with beards, hugging and smiling in a ruddy jovial way.

"Memphis Flu" – I’ll be honest, I can’t understand a word Ian is singing, but this is the type of song you’ll sing at 3:00AM, with a mate who can bash out a few chords on a guitar, and another mate who can play the accordion. I don’t have a friend that can play the accordion. I wish I did.

Ok – enough of the individual songs – there are too many highlights here, so I’ll leave it to you to discover them.

In summary though – the Felice Brothers have this wonderful sound. It’s a sound that really sums up Old America. It has gutter-like voices, it’s relaxed – you don’t need to dress up to listen to these guys. It’s got a folksy country feel, without actually being either. It has some blood and guts and fire in the belly. It’s has fast hectic tunes to twist and smile to; it has slow ballads, laced with meaning and metaphors. It’s happy. It’s sad. But sad in a happy way. And happy in a sad way.

This album makes me want to dance. If I’m happening to be wearing a suit at the same time, then that would be bloody brilliant.

I have no hesitation in recommending that you buy this album as soon as it is released. Buy.