Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Yonder is the Clock Full review
The Band: The Felice Brothers
Players: Ian Felice-Guitar and vocals
James Felice- Accordian, Organ, Piano, vocals
Simone Felice-Percussion, vocals
Christmas Clapton-Bass, vocals
Farley-Fiddle, Percussion, Washboard, vocals
Yonder is the Clock is the new album by the Felice Brothers, released on Team Love Records, due to hit stores on April 7. The title, drawn from the Mark Twain story "the Mysterious Stranger", in which Satan jokes to a blacksmith, that both the Stoned and the Stoner, have their time, and Satan has an eternity to enjoy himself. For the characters on Yonder is the Clock, time is nearly up; the Sailor lost in a terrible storm, The jailed soldier, the cheated lover, and the American empire. Unlike the self-titled release of 2008, this collection of songs are almost completely loaded with hopelessness, in the battle for peoples souls, the devil is winning.
Track 1: The Big Surpise: A quiet ballad in the vein of St. Stephen's End, about a jilted lover on the brink of doing something unspeakable to his paramour. Ian whispers, " The Jazzy Band has lost its swing, the revolution has lost its dream. When all your love has been a lie, its the day of the Big Surprise".
Track 2: Penn Station: A classic train-going-to-heaven metaphor, about a John Doe, dying on the floor in Penn Station, amidst train sounds, a chorus of "Whoo-hoo" and fiddles and accordian. This live tour de force translates very well onto vinyl. Ranks as a near equal to Frankie's Gun as a catchy single. Ian sings " With a toothbrush and a comb, five dollars and a dead cell phone, no photo id", setting the stage for the nameless victim and his souls race to get on the number 7 train to heaven, while a train, with Satan at the helm, is nipping at his heels.
Track 3: Buried In Ice: This number finds Christmas on lead vocal singing the woes of a cryogenically frozen man, out of his time, lonely and lost, and questioning the morality of those who made it possible. Christmas creaky voice asks "Professor what kind of miracle is this? you should be careful just what you wish for"
Track 4: Chicken Wire: The long circulated tune known from the Daytrotter Sessions, gets a major push from the band, and is far more uptempo here, Like Bill Haley and the Comets, "Rock Around the Clock", that is if it were about a invalid man fantasizing about wrapping himself in chicken wire and being dumped into the sea and being eaten by sharks. A very strong track with a great organ provided by James Felice.
Track 5: Ambulance Man: Ian crying out "Here comes the rain", with accordian washing over his melody. At the end of the song it builds so that amongst the carnival feel of the accordian, Ian is begging the Ambulance man for a ride.
Track 6: Sailor Song: virtually unrecognizable lyrics sung by James Felice. About a sailor lost in a storm, physically and spiritually cast adrift. Beautiful piano intro and its propelled by accordain throughout. Almost a solo song, where the sailor reflects that his kind do not get a burial like his land dwelling comrades
Track 7: Katie Dear: A great rendition of the traditional folk song. Very touching ballad of a man writing a song for his beloved, Ian sings "Katie dear, draw me a road map, with those brown ole eyes I love". Again the character is isolated from his loved ones. Sounds like a Levon Helm track for sure.
Track 8: Run Chicken Run: Ian sings about a man run afoul with a well connected madame, and is hounded by knife wielding Bronx man and a pipe bomb toting woman, featuring the closest thing the band has ever had to a guitar solo. Fast paced barn burner, well suited for the live show.
Track 9: All When We Were Young: Simone takes the lead vocal in maybe the most political song they have done yet (at least as the Felice Brothers). In this ballad, Simone's beautiful voice cries, "Where'd those planes come from, that burned my city in all that smoke and ash?" . "Sometimes the things you do, they come back at you."
Track 10: Boy From Lawrence County: Drug dealers and users, betrayed friendships, murder and mystery? Sounds familiar? One of the best tracks they ever laid down. This epic tale of of a loser, turning on a friend plays like cinema and ranks with Hey Hey Revolver and Lou the Welterweight as the best work this band has done. Expertly sung by Ian with the sad refrain "Tell me Judge, whats the bounty, on the boy from Lawrence County? He's a friend of mine. If I had a way to trap him, would you pay up captain? He's a friend of mine".
Track 11: Memphis Flu: too loose. Unlike "Take This Hammer" which was endearing and driven by Ian's vocal, this is the sound of a drunken party. Most of the vocals are unrecognizable. This one missed the mark, but remains a great live number.
Track 12: Cooperstown: Another tale, centered around baseball and Ty Cobb, that focuses on the seperation between us and people isolated from one another. Ian cries " I'm on First and your on Third, and the wolves are in between ".
Track 13: Rise and Shine: Again someone's time is up, and in this case its a very close friend, a blood brother apparently, who share his last moments. Beautiful song.
Overall, its a more complete effort than the last album, but with less lyrical cleverness, and a much darker (if thats possible) feel.