Jason Pierce couldn't do much better than 1997's "Ladies and Gentlemen..." but even so this album is a bit of an, um, comedown. All the ingredients are still there, his distinctive "psychedelic gospel" style, the blaring one-chord harmonies, harmonicas and fat, extremely fat orchestrations. The aim of the album seems to be "more is more", but without as many inspired tunes to form a backbone, it errs on the side of overblown. Much of the guitar has been replaced by orchestra, and at the same time some of his edge has been blunted, and some of the songs seem to turn out as rehashes of each other.
But in between the pudgy filler, the orchestral bloat is often compelling, enhancing the mood on songs like the chaotically-arranged "Out of Sight", and the earnest, pleading chorus of "Anything More". A particularly fine song is "The Straight and the Narrow", where Pierce confesses his chemical sins in a simple, heartfelt lyric. He still sounds like he needs a mug of hot chocolate and a big hug.
August 27, 2003