Indigo Girls: Swamp Ophelia

There are a lot of great songs on this disc, but the album itself feels like less than the sum of its parts.  Suffering from a clunky stretch, lyrics that are too abstruse to warrant their attempts at heft, and a lack of cohesion, it doesn’t always achieve its lofty aspirations.

The duo seems more like two individuals here, unable to decide whether they want to rock with some edge and grit (Amy Ray) or croon sweet, doe-eyed dreamy melodies (Emily Saliers).  The Ray stuff is generally better, but even then I wish she’d been reined in a bit more.  Her great songs are rendered merely good with the addition of unnecessary, contrasting sections (“Touch Me Fall”) or misguided, lengthy sound effects (“This Train Revised”).

Instead of figuring out how to sequence the songs into an entire album, they end up with a mishmash of turn-taking.  For example, instead of figuring out where to put the two big songs with strings (“Touch Me Fall” and “The Wood Song”) to make the whole album make sense, they just decided that, well, if we’d only had one, the middle would be the best place, so never mind that we both brought one to the table, let’s cram them both in there back-to-back.

At this stage in their discography, I imagine they were under a lot of pressure to follow-up Rites Of Passage with something that their devoted fan base would enjoy but also stretch themselves to prove to their critical audience that they could write something with more breadth.  I think they achieved both goals, but you can tell they’re reaching out of their established strike zone here.  It’s flawed, but most of these (everything except “Language Or The Kiss,” “Power Of Two,” and “Fare Thee Well”) are songs I want to keep and listen to again.

– “Fugitive,” “Least Complicated,” “Language Or The Kiss,” “Reunion,” “Touch Me Fall,” “The Wood Song,” “Mystery,” “Dead Man’s Hill,” “Fare Thee Well,” “This Train Revised”
-“Power Of Two”
Filed Between: In Like Flint/Our Man Flint Soundtracksand Indigo Girls’ 1200 Curfews
Song Notes:
Below the fold.

  1. Fugitive – I’ve got this as open.  It woulda been keep.  One of the two or three best on the disc.
  2. Least Complicated – Very good.  Would also have been keep.
  3. Language Or The Kiss – Would be like on old system.
  4. Reunion – Love that sawing-on-strings sound near the end.
  5. Power Of Two – Steers me balls that they try to make this math analogy (“multiply life by the power of two”) but I don’t know how you would multiply by an exponent.
  6. Touch Me Fall – So minor.  Indigo Girls are at their best when they rawk.  And they rawk hard on this one, but only at the end.  Drums are awesome.
  7. The Wood Song – Either this or “Least Complicated” are Emily’s best song.  Eh, this one’s a bit overdone, so her best is probably “Least Complicated.”
  8. Mystery – Starts weak.
  9. Dead Man’s Hill – also very minor.  Starts off weak.
  10. Fare Thee Well –
  11. This Train Revised – Might have been full if not for the 25 seconds of near silence at end.  Though it would be hard to mix a song about the holocaust, no matter how good it is.  Salier’s vox are better as background on Ray’s songs than on her own.

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