Down with the Shine by The Avett Brothers (7.0) (N.B. Live cut, best I could do)
I moderately anticipated The Avett Brothers’ new album. I have a couple of friends who are huge fans, one who historically has had middling to excellent taste in music, and another who (other than the Avetts) has possibly the worst taste in music of any human on this planet. I’m talking Jason Aldean/Kenny Chesney bad. (I.Y.I. This reminds me of debate he and I have had repeatedly when we’re in my car, and I’m spinning killer jams (N.B. Japandroids most recently), and he gets ready to stick his head out the window in an effort to avoid “this fucking garbage.” This, of course, leads me to counter that the swill he listens to (N.B. again besides the Avetts) is “mass-produced Nashville crap for which some barely competent lawmaker should author a constitutional amendment forbidding.” To which he responds that sonic excrement like Dirt Road Anthem and The Good Stuff are “clearly fantastic because they are popular, everyone listens to them, and you can hear them on the radio whenever you want,” and the music WD listens to no one has ever heard of before because it’s “fucking horrible.” To which I respond “by that argument McDonalds has the best food in the world, you fucking moron!” To which he responds “that’s not even close to the same thing. You are a fucking idiot.” To which I respond “you are fucking a idiot and your nose is big and my wife secretly laughs at you after you leave our house when we invite you over for dinner.” To which he responds “that’s not what she was doing when I fathered your “son”” (with finger quotes). To which I respond “fuck you,” and to which he responds “no, fuck you.”) So this gave me some reservations about diving headfirst into the Avetts’ new album, but after said friend agreed to split the costs with me (which he paid back with two $2 bills and a Sacajawea) (N.B. and yes, I downloaded it from the mothership instead of patronizing Guestroom. I’m sorry), it ended up in my CD player.
Moderate anticipation warranted.
Background: The Avetts are brothers (smirk) from somewhere east of the 405, surely. Their last album, I and Love and You, bordered on great. It was melodic and poignant, and generally easy on the ears in a familiar, but not staid, folksy/medium-rock way. Try this.
It would be lazy of me to say the new album, The Carpenter, (N.B. Which includes the track, Once and Future Carpenter (N.B. Some serious biblical imagery/allegories in that, huh?)) is equally as pretty. Because it’s different than that. You listen to it once, and you realize you want to hug it…hug it like it’s a chubby girl softly crying because some jerk called her fat, and you just want to comfort her. (N.B. Thank you female readers for sticking it out as long as you have. You’re absolved from ever reading this filth again. I’m sorry that specific metaphor was the first image that came to mind, but at least appreciate my honesty for not backing away from it.) After you hug her, you realize she’s a witty and articulate gal and not only was the jerk who called her fat a super asshole, but you were also for assuming she couldn’t possibly possess such charming qualities…
Sometimes the album is a little saccharine, but forgivably so. It all sneakily builds toward the penultimate track where the Bros. try and bring the hammer with the awesomely titled Paul Newman v. The Demons. I like the song, (N.B. even more since after his first listen, asshole buddy from above told me how terrible he thought it was) and maybe I understand what they’re trying to do with it, but given everything else around it, it feels a bit forced, certainly not as rubber to the road good as Down with the Shine, and not what they excel at. But it took a stone or two, in an album full of songs like the WD, to dip into some latent post-grunge, stomp on a kick-drum, and flirt with an electric guitar. I commend them for that.
But ultimately, The Carpenter is a pretty folk album that may try (even half-heartedly) to be more than it is. Which is a shame, because what it is is a good listen. What it’s not is a great one, no matter how witty and articulate they want it to sound.