Drama permeates The Felice Brothers' Yonder Is The Clock. In keeping with the band's usually uproarious live performances‚ the new album overflows with the high-spirits of a back-porch ruckus on the jaunty likes of "Run Chicken Run." But if it weren't for the quiet‚ albeit cryptic reflection in tunes like "The Big Surprise‚" the mystery the music conjures up wouldn't be nearly so palpable.
These siblings from the Catskill Mountains of New York take more than a few unexpected twists and turns here. "Penn Station" is a story of death in the big city narrated in the first person (?!)‚ the performance of which becomes a celebratory eulogy as it morphs into a hoedown. In keeping with the young group's respect for tradition‚ the use of metaphor on "Cooperstown" is startling‚ but it works because the chord progression provides just the right sense of release at each refrain.
On "Buried In Ice" doleful piano and wan rhythms mirror the world-weary singing. It's an ideal setup to the jubilant whimsy of "Chicken Wire" where the beat grows stronger as organ enters to supplant the ragged electric guitars. That combination of instruments sounds perfectly natural within the quieter moments that surround it; if you never thought an accordion could sound ominous‚ listen to "Ambulance Man:" rife with detail of setting and emotion‚ the plodding gait creates a dreamlike quality that reappears via the ghostly vocal on "Sailor Song".
The Felice Brothers don't belabor their points during either the songs or performances on Yonder Is The Clock. Still‚ there is no sense of hurry. This baker's dozen cuts proceed in quick succession because the band works in such economical terms on cuts like "Katie Dear." Tracks such as "When We Were Young" seem to catch the band just as they're learning the tune and the informality is as infectious as the earthy textures of honky tonk piano‚ fiddle and crisp electric guitar on "Rise and Shine" are engrossing.
Suspenseful and spontaneous‚ Yonder Is the Clock transcends glib descriptions like "Americana‚" because such labels impose limits upon The Felice Brothers in a way the group themselves steadfastly refuse to.
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