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Spokane | Able Bodies (Jagjaguwar)
Spokane is the side project of Drunk's Rick Alverson, though the implications of that statement would seem a little uncharitable.. Inferring as it does some sense of inferiority.  For 'Able Bodies' is in no way an album of frivolous intent and meagre off-cuts. Nor for that matter, is Spokane a vessel for Alverson's raging alter ego - this is hardly an album chockfull of floor-filling Garage tunes! However the fact that this is no radical departure from Alverson's previous work is a blessing, for the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes springing to mind. And Alverson's take on brittle folk musings, in both Spokane and Drunk, is far from being broke.
  
Reminiscent in pace and feel to such bands as Low and Dirty Three. This, Spokane's third album is one of slow, creeping beauty. With violin, cello, vibraphone and glockenspiel pirouetting gracefully amongst the familiar crowd of strings and traps, the band effortlessly creates a sublime (and often haunting) soundtrack to Alverson's subtle poetics.

There is no denying that Alverson's somewhat nasal delivery may not be to everyone's liking. And to be honest it would probably be fair (though a little unkind perhaps) to say that there are indeed very few to whom his particular unorthodox style is instantly appealing. However, as with that other great nasal drawler Dylan, a little perseverance and a skew on perspective are richly rewarded. For there is an almost tangible warmth emanating from this album, like the tiny flickering flame from a candle as it dances quietly in the cold winter moonlight.

And there in lies Alverson's greatest strength. As all artists dream, Alverson succeeds, aided by his cohorts, he is a master at conjuring up the most impassioned feelings in his listeners. These are songs so cinematic and fluid that they are able, should the listener be so inclined, to transcend the specific nature of their lyrics, to become backdrops/movies for the listeners own soaring projections/imaginations, however fantastic or mundane. This can be a slow cruise through a sleeping city or a... oh ok, so it is somewhat restrictive. It is I admit, highly unlikely that you would find any of the tracks on this album dubbed onto footage of the Monaco Grand Prix or the forthcoming World Cup, but hey...

I was once told the story of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. When 2 1/2 million tonnes of raw molasses from Cuba and the West Indies burst forth from a ruptured tank, forming a 20ft high wave that crashed through the streets of Boston's North End leaving 21 people dead - presumed suffocated - in it's sticky wake. I think you can guess where I'm heading...

Graham Sefton
May-June 2002

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