By Crow Winters
The Bodies of Water website claims that the band’s sound “draws from a number of disparate traditions, combining the metaphysical intensity of gospel, the primitive gusto of punk rock, the earnest idiosyncracy of American folk, the sonic inclusiveness of tropicalia, the planned jamming of prog, and the sincere melodrama of musical theatre.” Needless to say, that’s a mouthful, and, if the new record A Certain Feeling is any indication, a pretty big dressing-up of what is essentially simple 4/4 indie prog rock.
A Certain Feeling manages the alarming feat of sounding both overworked and technically unimpressive. Which isn’t to say that the band’s self-proclaimed trump card of gospel-inspired multi-tiered vocals don’t lead way to some disarmingly beautiful moments scattered throughout the record. Opener track “Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey” starts out with a bass-and-vocal choir that reminds me of a simpler spiritual cousin of “Autumn’s Child” by Captain Beefheart —certainly not a bad thing to be compared to. Unfortunately, as is the problem with most of the record, by the time the song’s true buildup starts, the band stops trying. Although all the songs move through several distinctive parts during their six-minute-plus running time (on average), certainly a feature of prog’s more complicated entries, nearly all of them are simple regurgitations of indie-rock clichés. It’s hard to even compliment the arguably gospel-inspired harmonies when they are so often shouted as anthems over forgettable chord rock.
It’s the kind of stuff that I’m sure makes for great live shows — the energy here is obvious, so it’s a shame that the poor songwriting detracts from the band’s enthusiasm. The songs that should cause a frenzied rush in the listener fall flat on record, due to a lack of editing and incredibly unimaginative production qualities. To balance out the “rockers,” the band has included some directionless dirges such as “Only You,” “The Mud Gapes Open,” and “Keep Me On,” which are the closest things to musical Xanax I’ve heard in a long time. I can’t even comment on the lyrical quality of most of the album because I lost hope after the female vocalist groaned, “In my eyes/Only you,” and variations thereof for four minutes.
One of my favorite moments on the record is the breakdown near the end of “Even In A Cave,” because the band drops its self-important faux-gospel and focuses on the actual music, and the effort shows. In future releases I expect songwriting of this quality and interest, because in my eyes, they can only improve.