Satchel’s first album has always stumped me. People with whom I have a lot of musical taste in common swear by it and, in fact, say it’s the band’s best album. (It’s a preposterous claim; their follow-up, The Family, is one of the all-time greatest albums.) I’ve revisited it many times over the years, including the last week or two, and I’m still stumped. But, heck, trying to get to the bottom of stuff like this is a big reason why Fat Clown exists. So here goes.
Let’s start off with a laundry list of why this might not be sinking in with me. First, the titles of the songs do not exist as lyrics in the song. I think having your choral phrase as the title of the song, for the most part, goes a long way toward remembering the individual songs. So even though the music here covers a fairly wide range of emotional material and, less so, timbres, I can’t think back on what songs I liked the most or remember any hooks. Even though I’ll have various hooks running through my head during the day, I never know what song they come from. It reduces my connection to the disc. Second, even though, if you’re paying attention, you’ll hear piano-led ballads contrasting with guitar-led rockers, you’re still bound to feel like the songs blend together, in part because the general timbres are the same throughout the disc. They’re doing a bit of the Brad (the bands share two members, including lead singer Shawn Smith) thing a la Shame where they mostly set a mood and settle into a song-long groove moreso than developing an idea through climax. Further muddling the distinction between the songs is that they’re all kind of the same in terms of quality, which is to say quite good. Finally, and this kind of relates to the titles not being in the lyrics (because I’m not really sure that they aren’t), Smith’s enunciation is not very clear, so, even though the vocals are a integral part of the experience, as they must be on any Smith album, you can’t really hang your hat on any of what he’s saying.
You know, I’m not really sure what else there is to say. I was going to talk in this paragraph about how most of the songs are quite good, with some going up to very good. But I already said that. So now I’ve said it twice. I guess along those lines, I’m missing the like v. keep rating distinction for songs that iOS provided with its five stars. When I originally bought in to the Windows Phone OS rating of full, open, broken hearts, I said the like/keep distinction was kind of silly anyway, but now I realize it’s not: some songs are awesome, just not mixers (“Trouble Comes Down,” “More Ways Than 3,” “Mr. Brown, while others I like but I wouldn’t call them great or even all that listenable (“Hollywood” and “O,” where they really go after the whole Shame vibe). There’s nothing more on this topic, but I may do something about that in the future.
Oh, the band includes clips from Reservoir Dogs throughout the disc.
– “Mr. Brown,” “Equilibrium,” “Taste It,” “Trouble Comes Down,” “More Ways Than 3,” “Hollywood,” “O,” “Mr. Pink,” “Built 4 It,” “Mr. Blue,” “Willow,” “The Roof Almighty,” “Suffering”
Filed Between: Arturo Sandoval (Hot House) and Satchel’s “Mr. Pink” single
Song Notes: After the jump
- Mr. Brown –
- Equilibrium –
- Taste It – Much heavier than what came before it. Almost Alice In Chains style grunge in the guit riff.
- Trouble Comes Down – Could have been candidate for, say, token full heart, but sound is pretty (intentionally, I think) bad.
- More Ways Than 3 – Another heavy one.
- Hollywood – Starts very quiet, distant-sounding, and dissonant, with just piano, drums, and voice, all with massive echo.
- O – “What’s the cut, papa” sample, then the sax one. Sounds very Gotham-esque. Like I can definitely see a dark video with a sax playing away in a puddled alley outside a bar door that opens to let some drunk couple stumble out, like some dumb 80’s commentary on modern loneliness or something. Also seems like you could sing “More Ways Than 3” along to this one.
- Mr. Pink – Good pick for a single, I do like this one. Opening riff sounds almost riot grrrl, but then they go into the kind of thing these guys do best. Very grunge-y feel to this. Another Alice In Chains feel, this time like a crunchy one off of Dirt, though it grooves pretty hard.
- Built 4 It – Another interesting sound, kind of middle eastern, at start.
- Mr. Blue – Weird sounds throughout. Cool, though.
- Willow – Nice vibe but pretty boring, standstill. It sounds like they’re going to go big, especially at the beginning, and that’s nice, but I’m left wanting a bit. Still, cool beginning.
- The Roof Almighty – Prince-esque.
- Suffering – Good.