The Felice Brothers, who originally seemed to have leaped from songs on The Basement Tapes or Music from Big Pink, have morphed into the adopted sons of Brian Eno. For Celebration, Florida, these ragamuffin rustics born in the Catskill Mountain of New York are deliberately utilizing production as a means to the end of making their new music, rather than avoiding technology like a clan of willful luddites.
That said, the album doesn't begin all that differently (or deliberately) than their previous album, Yonder is the Clock -- antique sounds of acoustic guitars meshing with background voices as if a cinematic intro. "Fire at the Pageant" then progresses into the sound of a children's choir chanting a facsimile of a chain gang song. Coming and going as if in the blink of the mind's eye, "Container Ship" follows, the only discernible syllables being the word "pirates" before it fades off to the sound of a dramatic horn section balanced on a deliberate and deep drum beat extolling the virtues of "Honda Civic."
Or does it? Ian's wan voice references mass confusion on the interstate, so are we watching the watchers of an auto accident? At this point, the thought occurs this album title's meant wholly ironically as more contemporary images arise with the passage of the dolorous "Oliver Stone," all ponderous piano and the keening sound of a high-pitched organ. "Ponzi" suggests it might be helpful to have the lyrics included in addition to or instead of the cryptic photos on the inside of the digi-pak:(the words are available on a fansite called, if only to confirm our ambiguous impressions.
Then again, a literal reading of the words, otherwise submerged in the mix, might drastically reduce the mystery surrounding these recordings and these songs (not to mention their authors!); supervised by producer Jeremy Backofen, who's overseen production on previous Felice projects, this collection was recorded in a makeshift studio created in the gymnasium of a high school. It all sounds like it was lifted from a dream in the heads of The Brothers.
Eleven tracks here running about 45 minutes total are like a well-crafted horror movie that you can't quite stop watching, whether the subject is "Back in the Dancehalls," "Dallas" or "Best I Ever Had." Even the melancholy likes of the last cut, purposefully arranged as a soundtrack to an imaginary conversation, refuses to conjure the exuberant air of The Felice Brothers live shows. Yet there is a palpable air of deliverance on the concluding "River Jordan:" in its own way as mesmerizing as the rest of this album, it is as haunting as it is vaguely repellent.