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Granfaloon Bus | Exploded View (Boxkite/Glitterhouse)
The fifth release (following last year's odds and sods compilation 'Necks and Bones') from the San Franciscan band (the name comes from Vonnegut) Granfaloon Bus is a mighty hard album to describe. It's like trying to describe something caught in a glimpse (fleeting) fragments that create not a whole but a myriad kaleidoscopic mosaic. Chilled out Americana? No, it's too elusive for that. The songs meander (and drift) into each other; think perhaps the organic unity of the new Sparklehorse album (though they sound not a bit like Sparklehorse) or Drunk's shimmering early records. EV gets underway with The Bender, as asymmetric a drinking song as you could hope for, Felix Constanza's vocals expressing a resigned wistfulness, heavily dipped in melancholy (think the last Grandaddy album) over a predominantly acoustic backdrop prone to sudden (and unusual) chord changes. Just as you think you've got 'hold' of a song (like the rapturously sly The Far From Perfect Ch-Cha) it mutates into something that slips through your fingers, creating a stain of mystery that runs through this record like a spooked horse. This is the soundtrack to Dali's Persistence Of Memory (the slowly dripping clocks and phantasmagoric rock formations) - Dali gone bucolic and settled down on a porch somewhere in the Deep South. The music is mainly mid tempo (slow mid tempo), waltzes abound while horns occasionally ripple the surface. There's many a great instrumental part throughout (the languid steel guitar on Part Of Joy and the punctuating propulsive horns on Heatwave Marchingband Soldier for example) while Constanza's lyrics (weather he's singing "I'm baking pies for the armed forces" (on Dead Pedestrians) or "From the first words out of her mouth / The day went south / Alone on the couch like a knee in the crotch / That's why I slouch" (on South)) are always engaging (if sometimes a tad gnomic), coming together beautifully in the surreal, horrifying car crash saga A Binary Story. So, not a record to break them to the masses perhaps, but this kind of music can never be massive, it doesn't shout or beat its chest, this is music in parentheses, bracketed and swelling, under the surface, yielding rich rewards for anyone willing to put in the investment.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002