No More Beautiful World - The Latest Roger Clyne Joint Gets A Listen
Pity the music lover and his expectations. Just when you think an artist is gonna reliably release another quality joint, a curve-ball of mediocrity gets thrown your way. Sigh... happened last year with The Flaming Lips and this year the fates apparently decided to do the same to No More Beautiful World, by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers
Count me as a pretty huge Roger Clyne fan. Count me as someone whose got everything Roger's done; from the Refreshments right up through the latest disc w/the Peacemakers. Count me as someone who remains underwhelmed at the quality of this record. I had an inkling that the songs weren't up to snuff when I listened to a few tracks that were featured in an ecard over at the band's site a few weeks back. I pre-ordered the disc from Amazon anyway, figuring that it'd be better than it sounded once the disc was securely in hand. It arrived yesterday and after several spins through the headphones and a test drive in my pick-up's CD player, I'm somewhat baffled at the middling quality of the tuneage. The Peacemaker's previous releases have always featured passion and righteousness mixed in equal amounts with hooky, melodic storytelling that targeted Rock -n- Roll's heartland. Mixing Country twang, Tex-Mex spice, and a few dashes of the Caribbean, with a solid Rock -n- Roll foundation, Clyne created a very tasty concoction that served his smartly clever lyrics very well.
On the new record, part of that formula is m.i.a. - the music is as strong as ever, though it's taken a slow turn towards Jamaica with several songs featuring the lilting, skanking vibes that are easily recognized as the progeny of Ska and Reggae. Seeing as how I'm into music that skanks, the more prominent Reggae vibe goes down easily for me. What's a little harder to swallow is the lack of any real storytelling - always a hallmark for Roger. Oh, there's hints of storytelling. Snatches and snips of words that appear to outline a path, only to have said path disappear right before
your eyes (and more importantly, your ears). The lack of storycraft on this disc may turn out to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as it's harder to focus on the lyrics without a story driving them. And here's where this disc really hurts: the lyrics. Man, the lyrics are just this side of embarrassing at many points (and that's a really hard thing for me to write). They're easily summed up like this: all platitudes without even a hint of attitude. And therein lies the major fault with this disc. It sounds pretty and it sounds bouncy and it sounds like there's something going on, but with all the glittering generalities in the lyrics, nothing hooks you deeply - there's nothing to see or feel when you listen with an attentive ear. It's a startling failure when compared with Roger's back catalog and a hard one to overlook.
Now that I've covered all the negative stuff, let's move on to the positive, shall we?
No More Beautiful World contains plenty of hooks and sing-along choruses within its very tasty musical grooves. This is also a very happy-sounding album; it's positively giddy in some passages and will most likely have you humming along with a smile on your face if you're willing to allow the tunes to carry you around. And aside from a one or two clunkers - I'm looking in your direction "Lemons' and "Junebug In July" - most of the songs are relatively good if you don't listen too hard for lyrical revelations. Standouts include:
"Wake Up Call"
The rest of the tunes are agreeable enough, but not especially remarkable or memorable. While I may be damning this album with faint praise to say it makes feel-good background music, so be it. This is a fine album to throw on and groove along with, and should be treated as such.
At the end of the day we're left with an album that, considering the Peacemaker's quality back catalog, is pleasant and sunny, but still remains an underwhelming endeavor in comparison. Those looking for a bit more substance, weight, and/or passion to go with along with sharp storytelling should pass on this disc and instead take a look at "Boys And Girls In America" by The Hold Steady.