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The seven autumn flowers

Trembling Blue Stars
The Seven Autumn Flowers
[Bar/None; 2005]

On balance, Trembling Blue Stars are best at cranking out filler by the slop bucketload and placing it between two or maybe (if we're lucky) three maddeningly great songs. In 2015, a compilation of their highlights will be worth buying. In 2005, their albums really aren't, unless you have a big place in your heart for Bob Wratten's super-fey indie pop and that place wasn't already filled by his work with Field Mice.

It should be noted that everything on this album sounds nice; it's well-recorded, well-mixed, well-performed-- hell, it's even well-packaged-- but it has little spark and a bad habit of insisting on five-minute songs. Wratten and friends make listening a chore with crawling, dull songs like "One Prayer Answere", a drag with cello, acoustic guitar and sleepy, barely melodic vocals. There are a lot of songs here like this, and I'd say they formed the backbone of this album, if this album had any backbone at all.

Like I said earlier, the highlights are quite bright, but there are just a few of them in the offing and outside of these sparkling moments, it's strictly bedtime. It took me a few listens to realize that "Last Port of Call" is a pretty nice song, surrounded as it is by its drag-ass cousins, but its laid-back lilt and memorable melody make it stand out-- even if it is twice as long as it should be. "Helen Reddy" gets things started with a sweet fake-out, sweeping along at a swift tempo with the sweet vocals of a bandmember credited only as Beth leading the way-- it almost reminds me of Pale Saints, actually, and it got me excited for what was to follow. I should have known better, because Wratten pulled this exact trick on the last TBS album, Alive to Every Smile, leading off with a stunner only to retreat to somnambulant quietude on the rest of the disc.

"The Sea Is So Quiet" also picks up the pace and is similarly rewarding-- Wratten's melodies aren't exactly hook-laden, so sometimes it takes a snappy drum beat and some chorused guitar to drive them home, which is the case here. Two of the four songs tacked on after the album's proper running order (it's telling that they're referred to as "extra tracks" and not "bonus tracks") seem to realize this, but by then, the album's runtime has bloated to an arduous 75 minutes. These songs all feel like they should burst and go somewhere, but none of them do. Even a sense of economy-- say, allowing no song to last more than the two or three minutes-- could have improved this, but by the time I get a third of the way through, all I want to do is stop listening to it. Wait 'til 2015.

-Joe Tangari, May 04, 2005

Trembling Blue Stars [Pitchfork]
foto: Archivo Elefant










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