I can’ really decide what to do with this one. The songs are okay but I like the aesthetic. But I don’t like the production. I keep going back and forth.
Covering “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is, for me, a misstep, not so much because the cover isn’t good – it’s fine – but because it reveals Deal’s songwriting to be just not that great, at least at this stage. (I like her songs on Last Splash a fair deal more.) It’s not that they’re bad it’s just that they are not all that great. Merely okay songs is not necessarily a deal-breaker for me. But I guess this puts me (at least artistically) on the Black Francis side of the argument about her songwriting: they’re just not really my thing. (And that’s not to condone his behaviour towards Deal, but rather just to say I understand when he says Deal’s songs didn’t appeal to him.)
What should make up for the songs is the aesthetic, which I like. I generally like this kind of music and I like the vibe of this particular band, particularly Donnelly’s playing and the space in the arrangements, which suits the music.
But this record is quiet. I don’t know what the fuck Albini did to it but I had to turn it way up to hear almost everything. It might not be Albini’s fault, I guess, as it could easily be the mastering. (Maybe something about the transfer to digital?) But this is a rock record and it’s whisper quiet at my normal listening volume. (With headphones!!! Like, what the fuck?) If this is some kind of weird artistic decision by Albini or the band I don’t get it. If it’s a mastering error then I’m sorry I didn’t listen to a proper remaster. If it’s a transfer problem well I just don’t have a record player. Regardless, a significant part of my inability to appreciate this record as much as most people comes from having to turn it up. Again, this is rock music I should want to turn it up because it’s loud, not have to turn it up because I can’t fucking hear anything.
Between the lack of true quality songs and the quietness of it, I can’t quite get there. Sorry.