8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Oh Augie, you've done it again,
This review is from: Moo, You Bloody Choir (Audio CD)
Another brilliant release from what is becoming one of my favorite bands. If you've never heard Augie March before, their much-heralded previous release "Strange Bird" may serve as a better introduction. If you have, you may be a bit surprised by this album at first; but like all Augie albums, it is far too rich and subtle to be judged on one or two listens.
No, it is not Strange Bird 2, nor should it be. A band of this caliber is not going to rehash previously successful musical ventures. They will continuously grow and challenge. But comparisons to their prior albums are inevitable, so lets dive right in...
Pros: Immediately apparent is that this is a much more consistent album than their previous two releases (the first being "Sunset Studies", the second the aforementioned "Strange Bird"). The former of those two was a good, occasionally great album with lots of dead spots. The latter was a great album that started great, ended great, but dragged a bit in the middle. I feel this album is a marked improvement in this regard. It starts off strong, ends strong, but the best songs in my opinion are tracks 6-10. Add to this the fact that the songs are very diverse musically (though not as much as Strange Bird!).The result is an album that is very easy to listen to all the way through, even though it is a bit long (>1 hour). Personally, this is what I value most from a great album, and what impresses me the most- the ability to listen from beginning to end, without needing or wanting to skip songs.
Another area I feel is improved is the lyrics. Glen Richards is a hell of a songwriter, and the lyrics are what makes Augie really special. "Strange Bird" had some of the best lyrics I've ever heard, but a lot of songs were too esoteric, borderline pretentious. "Moo" reveals lines that are a bit less grandiose; easier to get the first time around, more introspective- even perhaps confessional- but still displaying the mastery of the language that is Glenn's trademark. The best example of this is the song "Bottle Baby"; the lyrics are direct and simple (for Augie March, anyways), almost humble; but still using vivid imagery and clever wordplay. They are some of Glenn's best.
Cons: Like the prior two albums, it is a bit long. An album with 8 great songs is better than one with 8 great and 4 mediocre! This album could be trimmed down to a lean 50 minutes or so of pure brillinace. However I feel this is less of an issue with "Moo" for the reasons mentioned above.
Perhaps more disapointing is the lack of one really killer song. It's like all the songs are 7's, 8's, or 9's, but there are no 10's. On the other 2 albums there is one song each that just made me stop and wonder "how the hell did someone write that?". On "Sunset" it's the heartbreaking "Owen's Lament". On "Bird" it's the driving-off-a-cliff-with-a-wicked-laugh "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers". There are many great ones here- "Crowded Hour", the wonderful "Cold Acre", the title track (actually entitled "The Honey Month", and perhaps the best example of their unique style), "Bottle Baby", and "Clockwork" (a hypnotic pagan theme that reminds me of Ravel's "Bolero"). My favorite here is probably "Just Passing Through"; but none of these are quite as awesome as the first 2 I mentioned.
Observations: This is the first Augie album where their influences are blatantly obvious. The dewey, clean guitars and dreamy chord voicings of "Stranger Strange" recall '90's-era Radiohead...."Mother Greer" has the meandering melodic sense of Elvis Costello...."The Baron of Sentiment" actually reminds me of Oasis (don't know why, just does.); the most obvious one is the previously mentioned "Bottle Baby", which is drenched in Dylan. This is not a criticism, just an observation. This is a highly unique band that could not be formulaic or derivative if they tried. Just listen to "The Honey Month" or "Thin Captain Crackers" (though the title sounds like something off side 2 of Abbey Road) for evidence of the Augie March sound; No other band I've heard could write those songs. Incidentally, not since '90's-era Radiohead and their back-to-back masterpeices have I been this excited about a band!
I specifically waited a few months to review this album because I wanted to see if I would still be listening to it enough to warrant the praise I'm giving it. Well, I still listen to it almost every day. Despite some other really good albums that have been released since I got this on the first of April, it is still in heavy rotation in my personal playlist. To sum up, if you've not heard these guys before, "Strange Bird" might be a better introduction. If you have, get this album now, while the weather is nice (at least here above the equator). Listen to it all summer and let the beauty of the season mate with the beauty of the music and you'll have something very special indeed. (And don't wait for it to be released in the States- splurge like I did and just get the import).