Great things were expected from the Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo when he promised a “song-based solo album”, and as the opening, ‘Waiting on a Dream’ track begins, with an interesting melody and a noise-backing that nods towards his former band’s music, much is promised, but ultimately, this potential is never reached.
While some tracks are enjoyable, for example the acoustic tracks ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Hammer Blows’, or ‘Fire island (phases)’, the album just sounds a little, well, dull. It seems to be striving for a sound with echoes of Sonic Youth, vaguely retro prog and REM, but doesn’t really achieve anything interesting, which, coming from such a well-established artist, is all the more disappointing. Some of the songs drag on far too long for their limited content, and the lyrics, despite being written by a published poet, often vary between meaningless and laughable. Literally. I actually laughed at the lines : “I don’t wanna throw a wrench in the works/ But this whole town is full of jerks” in ‘Stranded’.
It’s not a bad album, really, just disappointing. Not just because it was written by Lee Ranaldo(which definitely figures into the equation), but because it is almost good. It always seems to be building to something, but never quite getting there.
Review also published in The Oxford Student and on http://www.oxfordstudent.com