The production feels pretty thin ... the sound itself feels thin.
I would have to disagree with all of the reviewers but the one who dissed the album ... I don't feel the energy. I feel the attempts at energy, but I don't feel it making it there. Maybe I got spoiled in the early 90s, circa 93-95, around and immediately after When I Woke came out, when I used to see them every month at Graffiti in Pittsburgh. Those were great shows (they used to do a killer cover of Sympathy for the Devil) and that was a great album, the production was thick and fat but had teeth to it. Of course I also think that was their best line-up ever because they had Jim Dispirito on percussion ... and he's just really really good. This album looks like a pretty decent turn over of cast, and feels like sort of desperately stretching for something new, not getting anywhere near it because it's trying too hard. I should say that in my opinion one of the reasons it's easy for any of their albums to pale in comparison to WIW as their debut on Mercury Records, is that that album was a very matured product. 5 of the songs they had already been through the refining process of the studio once before, on "Cruel Sun," their indie debut, and for that album (WIW) gone through refining them again with another good producer. ALL of the songs had been road-tested live for at least a year (I first heard ecstasy on a 4 song demo from them when our band [defunct since 93] swapped shows with them in the PGH/Western/Central PA area in 91).
For reference/gauge of my tastes in reviewing this, here's my span of their albums:
a bit rough production (PGH studios are not the best, in spite of Dave Brown being a good producer) but captured the feel of the early days pretty well.
When I Woke:
Amazing album, full bodied sound, amazing energy, good flow of material that made it a full album, more than just a collection of songs ... captured all the energy of the well honed live show.
At first I hated Jerry Harrison for this one, thought he took them through the same dive into washed out ethereal sound as the Heads made after little creatures (first time I watched RR play they reminded me some of the early Talking Heads albums). Since then have come to the opinion that while it doesn't have the lyrical character of When I Woke(even "Scattered" I think has a little more distinction on Cruel sun, even though the production is rougher and the sounds is thinner), and it's not as consistent, Harrison's production is still real production, sleeker sound than WIW but still full bodied - some of the songs still have enough energy to keep me going at the gym ... nothing since this album has been able to do that
Stalling, can't get it really started again ... not the way it was (saw them live during this tour ... the only time they really hit the energy of the old days was when they did their old standard of inserting the first verse of All Along the Watchtower into Cat Turned Blue [I think the recording of CTB on Cruel Sun has it ... that was always a power moment at Graffiti shows])
Welcome to my Party:
Sounds like you're trying a completely new direction ... that's, um, interesting
Apparently the center didn't hold as strongly in the cast list either (not that I thought Wertz and Bunyak contributed that much ... Berlin always had the better voice and used it better) ... just like it's not really holding very well in the music ... feels like you're trying too hard.
I'll still go to see them in May in NYC, where I now live, but more as a nastalgia thing ... based on this album I'm not expecting the same show I used to see, the type of show I get my fix for with Balkan Beat Box now ... it will probably be fun ... but just fun.
(makes me a little sad ... I always thought Mike Glabicki was a really strong son writer when he is on his game, and I loved those shows at Graffiti in those days, some of the best live music experience I have had)