I think most people who come to this record because of the musicians involved will invariably have really high expectations, which is a problem. But a concept album about the decline of US industry made by some of the best experimental rock musicians with so many notable guests – Tom Waits!!! Trey Spruance!!! Mike Watt!!! – is bound to raise expectations.
And, if you come to this later, as I have, there might also be an inclination to see this as the beginning of Bossi’s and Kihlstedt’s descent from avant garde weirdness and cutesy indie pop.
And so I must say that, upon first listen, I was disappointed. Not by “View From the Watertower,” which is along the lines of what I was expecting, but by everything that follows.
But with multiple listens I like this a lot more than I did initially. I do think it’s almost too diverse – perhaps as a result of having at least one guest musician on all but two tracks – to fit the lyrical concept. Some of the songs – particularly “Pray,” the Waits track – feel tailor written for the guest. And that might work better if there wasn’t some kind of greater lyrical intent. Sometimes it feels like the guest appearances are hijacking the concept.
Maybe I’ll change my mind, but so far this feels like almost a great idea, that got perhaps a little ambitious and a little too much about the friends and idols the group got into the studio.