Thursday, April 06, 2006

Loose Fur / Born Again in the USA / Rating: 7.3

“There's no doubt Born Again is superior to its predecessor in nearly every respect. Even the eight-plus minutes of "Wreckroom"-- complete with Tweedy surrealities, wafting solos, and ambient denoument-- are more purposeful than anything on Loose Fur. But, since the album's sharpest moments largely serve to underline the individual strengths of its more well known songwriters rather than the group as a unit, it acts as a teasing appetizer for new O'Rourke and Wilco full-lengths more than it satisfies in its own right.”

Lets take a look at what Pitchfork gave the first record…

Loose Fur: Loose Fur[Drag City; 2003] Rating: 7.2 - Review by: Will Bryant

does a .1 measure a band’s “superior” jump from an okay first record to a much improved second?

I’ve read a surprising number of reviews who harp on Loose Fur’s Christianity bashing but come on people Loose Fur…get it? It is a play on words, say it fast with me….LOOSEFUR. That’s right is sounds a whole lot like Lucifer. It’s been interesting researching this record only to discover just how many writers ultimately gave Born Again in the USA a thumb sideways or thumbs down for its satirical lyrical content. It appears some people like a little less Christ bashing and sly comedy in their rock.

Ohhh nooooo, an artist is actually saying something and has an opinion! Maybe your basic rock critic is threatened by such a concept.

The second most overused journalistic approach to Born Again is the endless pondering of what one should expect from a side project band or members of Wilco and artist Jim O’Rourke or what a follow up to their 2003 release should sound like. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just listen to a record and just think about and react strictly to what our ears are hearing, not the laundry list of information attached to the disc? I understand reviewers need to fill the page with something but can’t these paragraphs include a little more about the music. I’m not asking to deny , refuse, or release an artist from their past but all I ask is we the listener try a little harder to direct our attention towards the music.

Why IS it so hard to listen to something objectively these days?

I don’t know, maybe readers need obvious associations to understand what a record sounds like via the written word? Are journalists dumbing down and depersonalizing reviews to meet the market place demand for a lack of style? Maybe I am completely missing what people want from a record review?

Music fans should know that there is shrinking difference between a record review and band’s press release.

I’m not exactly a classic rock aficionado but I am the youngest in a family of 6 kids, all of whom are now (well the ones still alive) in their 40’s and early 50’s. They, my brothers and sisters went thru all sorts of phases: punk, folk, disco, metal, and new wave to name a few but their love for ROCK never faded out of the picture. Classic rock radio and classic rock artists were played in cars, bedrooms, on walkmans, living room hi-fis, by poolside and _______ (you name it) for the first 15 years of my life and while I don’t ache to hear the Eagles, The Dead or The Allman Brothers in my home as an adult, hearing a record with a strong command for THE ROCK sounds cozy and familiar to my ears. I associate this newest Loose Fur record with an ironed hair bell bottom past the past or at least my families past and high level songwriting from top rock artists of the 1960’s and 70’s.

The 40 minutes found on Born Again could easily pass as a random 40 minute time slot from your local classic rock radio station, Neil Young, Bowie, and Kinks included yet all of this without sounding exactly like anybody but themselves. Its strange to feel that well written songs with unbelievably talented players backing them up is a thing of the past or very rare but it is this exact reason why Loose Fur’s newest material sounds fresh, pure and out of the ordinary. (This is also why I applauded Jason Collett’s newest effort as well.)

A 7.3 rating may reflect what a Gang Of Four-Eno-Talking Heads loving Pitchfork reader may think of Loose Fur but all I know is I have a cd I can pop in my car the next time my sister and her husband roll into town that they will LOVE it. They will want it to call their own and I so know what to get them for Christmas this year. If they could rate this record I bet it would get a high 8. (“Answers to your Questions” gets a 9 by my ballad standards)

PS: Not to ostracize you digital dowloaders but band artwork and packaging is always a particular interest to me and why I pray the physical format for music remains in style. I was super curious about the tweaked pencil art all over the Loose Fur cover (front and back) as well as the booklet so I dropped the label a line to ask about the artist and here it what they told me:

“Tomoo Gokita is the artist of record for all the drawings included in the artwork. He's a young Japanese artist - you can Google him and find out more. Jim O'Rourke seems to have an interest in contemporary Japanese artwork; he used pieces by other artists on Insignificance and Eureka and Tomoo was his choice. The LP has a poster that comes with it that has a larger piece. I find really great and it appears nowhere else.”