Friday, May 15, 2009

The Weight - Are Men
Tee Pee

Now a whole featuring one Joseph Plunket rather than one man and his band (hence the title) this second release leaves indie-schmindie minor woe at the roadside for a riot on the back porch. Bleary-eyed bar fodder with feeling all the way from Brooklyn perfect for filling those slices of your Americana heart left when the much missed round these parts Slobberbone dribbled off back to the Texas desert. Sure ‘nuff, that’s an oil well in hell of an, erm, weight, to place on their shoulders. It’s not high on originality, it could even be accused of a join the dots, textbook exercise in Primal Scream-ing if you will, and it may seem to pass you by as inconsequentially as the places, roads and women cluttering these songs do him. However, along with three-way harmonies toppling out the twee tree, backing vocals hollered from broken kitchen windows, and the psych guitars scraping sweetly but not so as to make you think they’ve loosened up too much, bedecked with a delightfully spluttering vocal mannerism like tobacco juice is permanently secreting itself from Plunkets mouth, they kick up a Southern Rockin’ honky-tonkin’ hullabaloo like a less literate Drive By Truckers. The wryly lurching bar-floored ballad Like Me Better, which starts the album by picking itself up from the end of the last album 10 Mile Grace, gradually stumbling from a fumbling slumber to a swaggering stagger that pretty much saunters throughout this ten track whole. And when the Georgia Satellites accelerator-melter Had It Made and Johnny’s Song follow, slurring, slouching and slugging through your head like truckers thumbs through belt-loops with drowsy cousin Talkin’ in tow, they easily shrug off suggestions of insincere cowboys of the construction kind. Maybe Plunket wanted to get away from balladeering and ditch the introspection of the stereotypical simpering acoustic troubadour, pointlessly toiling under the laborious notion they’re relating torrents of truth like a Townes van Zandt, or the slightly contrived, over-egged eulogies of his own debut. After all, four years is a fair few minutes in which to make a costume change or two. Whether you prefer to take that gap as the weight of writing in a what to do next quandary or a welcome addition to the bar where sits a rafter of songsmiths whose various attitudes and attributes just depends on what they’ve been regaling their innards with that evening is down to you, the listener. It also remains to be seen if this current cowboy coat will last the season or is the second hand dealt from a chameleon’s deck. Rightly railed at for the lack of depth, though some may care to remember, or discover, Slobberbone doing Gimme Back My Dog along with Josephine on the ceaselessly magnificent Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today or The Replacements closing an album (Tim) that contained the goofy Kiss Me On The Bus (nee, Butt) with Here Comes A Regular. The Weight don’t drag themselves up to those kind of heights, or down to those depths, but there’s enough soul here to strongly demonstrate Are Men isn’t merely a case of play actors casting about for a new stage as they’ve managed to create one of the best country records of recent times.
Stu Gibson

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