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Willard Grant Conspiracy | Everything's Fine (Slow River / Ryko)
If Alvy Singer is a bigot, but "for the left", then similarly Willard Grant Conspiracy purvey swollen anthemic slabs...for the left. And if it were possible to use the word pompous and not have it come off as pejorative and damning, then that would be the cap that fitted these prolific Bostonians best. Practically every song on this their fourth album proper sways along to the tempo of a pendulum, as they even manage to make the high-pitched trill of a mandolin sound epic and weighty. Paradoxically, Robert Fisher's vocals are more mellifluous than ever, still full and robust of course, but articulating less fury than before. And while the instrumental well they've drawn from in the past has been deep and full, with a revolving cast of extras providing colour and depth, the relative simplicity of Everything's Fine (in comparison with the dense and textured Flying Low) only throws a spotlight on the lack of inventiveness at the heart of the songs' structures. No matter how they launch into each song, be it the seductive arpeggio and one-fingered piano sloth of Kite Flying or the Addicted to Love drum thump of The Beautiful Song, all roads lead eventually to the same place as Willard Grant Conspiracy fold into another slice of fraternal swayalong (which, judging by the audience participation accompanying live renditions of The Work Song, is exactly what they're after). By now we should have known that that's what they do; Ahab hunted the whale and Willard Grant Conspiracy make portentous music to lose yourself in. They said it: everything's fine.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000