published: 17 /
The Willard Grant Conspiracy's third and latest album, 'Mojave', has just been released. Evocative and emotively charged, it is a lyrical and compelling 'new country' mood piece with a timeless, float
The Willard Grant Conspiracy's third and latest album, 'Mojave', has just been released. Evocative and emotively charged, it is a lyrical and compelling 'new country' mood piece with a timeless, floating feel and haunting atmospherics. It is reminiscent of Bob Dylan's 'Oh Mercy' and 'Time Out of the Mind'; The Velvet Underground's eponymous 1969 album, and much of the music of 'The Band', but its dark, often ominous vocals and multi-segmented musical structures also have a unique flavour of its own, and it is the Boston band's most assured and definitive album yet.
Over fifteen musicians have been involved in its recording, and alongside the band's regular members-singer Robert Fisher ; guitarists Paul Austin, Sean O' Brien and James Apt ; violist David Curry and mandolin player Erich Groat- there are a variety of distinguished guest appearances that include vocalist Edith Frost ; drummers Chris Brokaw of 'Come' and 'Codeine,' and Malcolm Travis formerly of 'Sugar', and the boss of Slow River, the band's record label, George Howard, on the banjo. 'Mojave' has been co-produced by Fisher and Boston producer and musician Pete Weiss, who worked too with The Willard Grant Conspiracy on their second album 'Flying Low', which was released last year.
The songs on 'Flying Low' were nearly all set in the smalltown America of the mid-West and though often universal in theme were, down to town and street names, rooted to particular places and spots. 'Mojave' however, has a far broader canvas. Geography and landscapes are all important, and the stars, the sun, the sky, brown earth, mountains , rivers,and trees all appear and are described on the album. Some of the songs are set specifically in lyricist Fisher's native California. Most, however, are loose enough to be set anytime and anywhere, but the Mojave Desert, which is where some of the third track 'The Work Song' is set, is the band 's symbol for the album and and its key. It is used as a metaphor for the entire recording, its wide, subtle beauty and starkly colourful terrains having comparisions with co-writer Austin and the other musicians' broad, rich and striking musical textures, and the extorted longings of Fisher's breathy Nick Cave/John Cale style baritone vocals.
While 'Flying Low' also touched on alcoholism, poverty, and nervous breakdown , most of the songs on 'Mojave' are about relationships on the slide or those which have been already shattered. Opener 'Another Lonely Night', with its insistent plucked mandolin and sombre, lamenting harmonica, has its narrator leaving his lover 'on the morning after another lonely night' as a 'last attempt of loving you'. In 'Front Porch' its self-loathing main character runs out on his partner, and imagines her some years down the line older and seemingly alone, sitting on the front porch as it turns to autumn and remembering him. 'I hope you think no less of me, because my heart already does'. The mysterious duet of 'Right on Time', which also features Edith Frost's soaring vocals as well Fisher, is, however, set in an oppressive and corrosive summer heat, and it seems that a riot is about to break out outside, as inside their shaded building a couple's relationship quietly falls apart. Most sinister of all though there is the escalating, thumping menace of 'How to Get to Heaven',which has a violently disturbed lover imagining shooting himself with his partner's gun as they sit on a grassy knoll. 'I can make everything fade away/Reach into your bag and pull out a gun/Then put it to my head/You get six shots for my one/As long as you're around/I'm better off dead.'
Not all the songs are so morose though. On the magnified and exuberant steel guitar folk pop of 'Color of the Sun' the relationship will end, but it should be enjoyed while it lasts. 'Wrap a ribbon around your finger/Some time you will remember what it is like to be wrapped up in her arms.' In 'The Work Song', it is not the couple's relationship which is the problem, but the tedium of regular employment, and they dream about running off together into the beauty of the desert. 'It seems so far away/Out on the edge of Mojave/We light a fire with tumbleweed/Cast out our shadows by Joshua Tree./When we get home from work.' 'Go Jimmy Go' however, is good-humoured and glorious, frenzied punk chaos, while the last track, the slowly building and intensifying and mainly instrumental eight minute 'The Visitor', brings the record to a searing and powerful climax.
This is a band at the height of their powers, Catch them with this album before everyone else does. This will be undoubtably be one of the most important indie releases of the year. It deserves to be enormous.
Another Lonely Night
Colour Of The Sun
The Work Song
How To Get To Heaven
Go Jimmy Go
I Miss You Best
Cat Nap In The Boom Boom Room
Love Has No Meaning
Right On Time