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The Search

29 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 6, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Earnest, plainspoken and single-minded, Jay Farrar has amassed a sizable and distinctive body of work since coming on the radar with Uncle Tupelo in 1987. The Search, the fifth album by the St. Louis-based artist under the Son Volt nameplate, takes Farrar's signature juxtapositions of the arcane and the modern to provocative extremes, contrasting the blue highways of a disappearing cultural landscape with a perilous world in which the center no longer holds - a world of information overload, of clueless leaders carrying out sinister agendas, of "Hurricanes in December - earthquakes in the heartland/Bad air index on a flashing warning sign," as the artist sings ruefully on "The Picture." The Search's 14 songs locate and vividly portray the prevailing modes of the human condition in the first decade of the 21st century: cynicism ("Beacon Soul"), reflection ("The Search"), restlessness ("L Train," "Highways and Cigarettes"), yearning ("Adrenaline and Heresy"), paranoia ("Automatic Society"), despair ("Methamphetamine") and conditional hopefulness ("Underground Dream," "Phosphate Skin"). By turns melancholy and exhilarating, the album further cements Farrar's status as one of rock's most eloquent chroniclers of contemporary existence.

Five albums into Son Volt's career--and a pair into the band's rebirth following leader Jay Farrar's several solo ventures--it's time to bury the encumbering "alt-country" moniker that has dogged Farrar since his days in the genre-setting Uncle Tupelo. While the inexhaustible songwriter relied on guitars to drive 2005's rock-heavy Okemah and the Melody of Riot, Son Volt amends its familiar arrangements on The Search, balancing the instrumentation with piano, organ, and dabbles in a horn section. "Feels like drivin' 'round in a slow hearse," Farrar pleads over repetitive piano and East Indian guitar loops in "Slow Hearse." It's a pensive opener that suggests something is askew, but the horns that kick off "The Picture" literally scream it from the Stax vaults. Farrar dives in and out of genres, tingling the ivories to add subtle alterations to both the gorgeous "Underground Dream" and Imagine-like "Adrenaline and Heresy," turning his band into Gang of Four for the 134-second rocker "Satellite" and singing alongside Shannon McNally on the soulful "Highways and Cigarettes." While it may be impossible for this Son Volt to ever reach the pinnacle of their 1995 debut, no one can accuse Jay Farrar of going through the motions. --Scott Holter

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 6, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Transmit Sound/Legacy
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,785 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Gregory C. Wolfe on March 6, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I have been a fan of Farrar's work since the days of Tupelo. And i think Farrar has quite a tradition to fulfill everytime he sets down to record. I dont think he asked for it, but somewhere along the line he was given this identity. Tweedy broke out of it big when he launched "Yankee" and "Ghost," and there was a jauggernaut of press that followed the Wilco "Yankee" debacle. Farrar did just the opposite. He released albums but did so in a silent way. It was as if the fans knew something that others did not.

There are Tweedy people and there are Farrar people. That is the way i see it.

For most fans Son Volt doesn't get any better than Trace. For some reason that album has defined Farrar and Co. work. All Son Volt albums have been amazing to me. Listen to Way Down Watson from Straightaways if you need evidence of this. Likewise, "Dead Man's Clothes" from Tremolo is simply brilliant. All three albums are terrific. That was the old Son Volt.

When the band regrouped with new members I was really curious. I was used to the line up of the original. I have seen them play all over the midwest, and i came to like the chemistry. Okemah was not what i expected, but i could not stop listening to it. Although the album didn't hold the weight of any of the previous SV efforts, it was solid and it rocked (i have never used that term before). The guitar work is what is so amazing on that album. I was surprised that the press embraced it so enthusiastically...For a long time Son Volt fan, it sounded like transition. Still, a SV transition is an amazing thing. I spent many Summer nights on my porch with that album.

The ending "world waits for you" was a sign of very great things to come.

Now, this brings me to The Search. What an album.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By T. Prizer on March 8, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Jay friggin' Farrar, man. That's all I've been able to say or think about since buying this record a few days ago. How he does it, I haven't a clue. But Farrar has proven once again that he is the most important songwriter in the world today. `The Search' is Farrar's most mature release ever, and it brings together all the elements of his career that we love, often times in the span of just one song. This is a beautiful return to the mysterious poetic of Farrar's earliest writings with Son Volt. The songs exude concern, pain, honesty, heartache, and hope. They may well be Farrar's best batch ever.

I have been moved to chills - near tears - at so many points on this record already that no review can do these songs justice. The emotions that his voice and poetry stir in his listeners are deeper than words can capture. He is a master. That's all there is to it.

"Adrenaline and Heresy" is like a shot to the gut ("She said I still love you/I don't know if I wanna spend the rest of my time with you, the rest of my life with you"). "Beacon Soul" is a melody so unique, so brilliant that it leaves one wondering how in hell it wasn't discovered before. "Underground Dream" features some of Farrar's best lines in a long time ("Had a thought that consumer goods were bad/Like a rat can never beat the wheel/There's a wiretap stealing a nightmare/Shadows laughing and making deals"). "Automatic Society" and "Action" are rock songs that stand up next to anything Farrar's ever done with an electric guitar - just pure rock `n' roll. "L Train" and "Methamphetamine" are classic acoustic Farrar compositions in the melancholy vein that only his voice can fully capture. And his voice...

All this said, PLEASE buy the Deluxe Edition on iTunes.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas D. Ryan on May 25, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I always suspected that Jay Farrar had a masterpiece in him, but the ever-diminishing payoff I experienced with most Son Volt releases left me feeling less and less certain of my conviction. After listening to "The Search" for two solid weeks, I'm fairly convinced that this is the miracle I've been hoping for. As is usual for a Son Volt record, I required multiple listens before the songs began to sink in, but like a cautious friend, the underlying logic of "The Search" slowly started to reveal itself. This album is deeper than most, so it justifies a lot of playtime, and the more I listened, the more I realized that this is a disk you can keep in your player for a few weeks without growing tired of it, or restless.
As a lyricist, Farrar was never one to reveal himself recklessly, but I notice a few shifts in his methods here that aid in conveying his expressive side. First, the lyrics are more poetic than usual, which does not necessarily mean that they are opaque. Depending on the song, Farrar's words veer from the oblique to the direct and literal. For example, on "Action," he sings, "Break up the old drug pound story, Tortured soul wears an ego sleeve. Heavy hearts and heavy hitters, Bards disease finds the killing floor." These words might not ever mean anything literal to me, but they conjure up rich imagery, while the melody deepens their impact. Elsewhere, on "Adrenaline and Heresy," Farrar sings "She said I still love you, I don't know if I want to spend the rest of my time with you," which is as direct a statement as can be made about a failing relationship. Farrar sings these words with a striking sense of resignation that resounds long after the song ends. "Highways and Cigarettes" is also full of literal imagery ("Best to clear the mind with a Mexicali radio station.
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