Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reviews:: America Here & Now

** disclaimer ** herohill isn't in the habit of trashing a record. Rather than rip apart an artist's vision, we simply don't post on it. There are enough sites out there who are more than willing to crush a record, without us adding to the pile. That being said, when this record showed up, I was actually quite interested to hear it (as I'm sure a lot of other people are as well). **

As horrible as this statement sounds, sometimes what you’d expect is what you’d get. More and more bands with their prime lingering years behind are recruiting big name musicians to help bolster a reunion or comeback LP. The latest? America. Now, I'll be honest. The number of America songs I know well is two. The number that don’t involve the words “horse”, “with”, “no” or “name” is one. The number played on Lite-FM probably maxes out at about five. Yet somehow, they are back with a double-disc of material that is littered with a surprisingly decent staple of guests.

Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, James Iha, Nada Surf; these are not people you’d expect to be riding on a horse with no name, but they certainly make the project something you have to give a listen. In my head, I wondered how Bunnell and Beckley would approach the MMJ track Golden, or revamp Always Love from Nada Surf’s last record. The answer, sadly, is just as I expected. It’s acoustic-y, inoffensive rock. It’s tailor made for oldies radio. There is nothing wrong with that demographic, it just doesn’t make sense to drag in big names to recreate it.

That’s my big objection with a lot of these projects. If you aren’t going to try to reinvent yourself with the help of contemporary stars, why bother? Tossing Ryan Adams and some slide on Ride On has potential for greatness. So does tackling Golden with MMJ and Ben Kweller. Instead the tracks sounds like something America wrote in the 70’s. I actually like the version of the Nada Surf track on this record (despite the overpowering harmonies on the chorus), but that’s because it sounds like an unplugged version of an already great song.

I’m sure the simple hipster affect will help push this along. I mean already people are talking about America for the first time in decades (and they might even be getting a Bonnaroo slot). That’s a start, but that’s really the most I can get from this. Sure, you could throw it on in the background, but the same can be said about hundreds of records. Inoffensive music, no matter who is playing it, is pretty straight forward. Santana’s been using this formula for commercial success for years, and I’m about as likely to run out to buy a duet with him and Rob Thomas as I am to embrace this disc.

The record is as bland as you’d expect and makes me wonder why they’d bother. If they are trying to reach out and grab new fans, why not try to break out of their style and let the heavy hitting guests share the spotlight? If they are trying to give their old fans one last glimpse into the songwriting that is America, why bother with the cameos? Sure, my dad might like sitting down for dinner with me and hear Muskrat Love playing in the background, but would he really care when the subtle contributions of Jim James escape the speakers?

Either way, I’d say save the cash. You can get the same sounds for about $4.99 in the clearance bin.

Posted at 3:43 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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