Thursday, October 8, 2009

review: I and Love and You The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers
I and Love and You
American, 2009

The Avett Brothers: "I and Love and You"

Not being enamored by The Avett Brothers and living in North Carolina is the new form of sacrosanct. This band has a special place for those who know just a little bit about music to be dangerous--mostly those who are huge Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews or Bob Dylan fans who throw down the occasional Vampire Weekend reference. "I just love The Avett Brothers!" they say. "Maybe you'd like the Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, or even the Carolina Chocolate Drops," I reply.

"Who? What?"

But I'm not a longtime fan. I was actually surprised how well people responded to
Emotionalism when I first heard it, mainly because of the actual rock in it with the semi-punk folk streaks.

Too bad that streak has mostly been ironed out by pop music god Rick Rubin. That flaunting NYT piece made him sound like he had struck literal nirvana and that he was the second coming of Confuscious. I guess it's harder to make snappy pop than I first thought.

But, somehow through my thick cynicism, The Avett Brothers make a pop album that does not seem cheesy, foreign, or the dreaded shift from their roots. Granted, I'm only going off one album, but this is the album I would expect to hear from the group making their dicey mainstream debut--just enough to pander to long time fans with enough smoothed edges for a popular launch.

The album starts with the title track, "I and Love and You" and it immediately slice into the psyche, with the plea for Brooklyn to take them in. The great thing is that almost any town name fits into their melody, so everyone can automatically fill their hearts with longing for THAT PLACE that cannot be grabbed. It's wistful, it's lonely, it's hopeful, it's despairing--it's the perfect "what if" song.

But holy cow, these guys can turn the lyrical phrase as proven in my favorite song of the album, "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise." Go for this: "There's a darkness upon me/that's flooded in light/and I'm frightened/by those who don't see it." Those lines are so obvious and contradictory and well, just good, that there's a certain magic in its sincerity and the speed with which its delivered. Everything is calibrated for maximum impact, which I guess is Rubin's specialty.

Let's go to the worse song--that annoying kick drum one, using a stupid obvious metaphor that seems written for a thirteen year old. It's probably a hoot to play, a real kicker and crowd pleaser to those already drunk and looking for a song to put their arm around their disinterested partner's neck, but man is it superfluous.

The mid song break for picking and strumming in the middle of "Laundry Room" complete with a hayride hoedown feel is a great addition--it really picks the song up, spins it around a time or two for a pleasant ending surprise to an other wise solemn song.

Solemnity and quiet reflection is the modus operandi for the Bro's on this album--as if they're trying to parse and piece together the reason for their success. As if the tension and expectations have fueled some anxiety--"I am lost in greed/this time it's definitely me/ I point fingers/ but there's no one there to blame"--this is their "oh, crap what have we done moment" on "Ill With Want" so perhaps the songs are a bit more worrisome than usual. Perhaps the jump from bar band isn't an easy one.

Definitely worth the pick up, but it doesn't quite meet the hype. In fact, I'm somewhere between here and here. But this is a fine intro to newbies, nothing for the band to be embarrassed about or old fans to complain about.

1 comment:

  1. Some people will probably hate me for saying this, but the Avett Brothers remind me of O.A.R. before they found their way onto the radio, in their "Black Rock" and "Crazy Day of Poker Days." Seeing them live is what made this comparison for me.


Related Posts with Thumbnails