I know that comparisons are invidious but I just can’t help myself. At Christmas I was given a beautiful, shiny, new, vinyl copy of Slave Ambient by The War on Drugs. It’s a fine record and I relaly enjoyed it. The music is varied and never less than interesting: some of the vocals sound like Bob Dylan, if he could actually sing. the songs are uniformly well written and well performed and I can recommend it to fans of intelligent rock music everywhere. About the only thing missing from it is the Big Hit Single – or should that be the tune that could be your next ring tone?
Reading over that last paragraph one thing screams at me: nothing in it screams at me. Now, I don’t mean to damn with faint praise because Slave Ambient is a really good album and if you bought it on my recommendation you would probably, if you are well-brought-up, write me a very nice note of thanks on your monogrammed stationary. But yeah, it lacks that wow! factor. And I hadn’t even realised I was missing it until I picked up an album that I was meant to get for Christmas 2007.
My daughter, who remains blameless, went into Tower Records and asked for Okkervil River‘s latest LP. and the bastards gave her the previous one – Black Sheep Boy. Fortunatley, just about anything by Okkervil River is killer but the one I really wanted was The Stage Names. So, for the past while I’ve sorta kept an eye out for it, but I had an Okkervil River LP so I wasn’t too pushed about getting another. Then I stumbled across a copy of The Stage Names and decided to break out and buy it.
The Stage Names has the Wow! factor. In spades. First time I listened I wondered why they had front loaded the TWO best tracks on the album – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe and Unless It’s Kicks – as side one tracks one and two. On playing it again I realised that maybe they had front loaded the best three, although the last track on side two – John Allyn Smith Sails ( which is really Sloop John B’s smarter brother) – really kicks ass. In fact every track on it does, fast or slow. Damn you, Tower Record Guy. I’ve missed out on years of fan-boyish worship for Will Sheff.
Do not make the same foolish error. Run to your nearest purveyor of fine music and tell the man Bob sent you. Oh, and by the way, ask for a copy of The Stage Names.