Between two things there is often a dilution of each, a middle of the road but there is also the possibility of great fertility. I mention this as when listening to this record my first impression (and so far it’s an unshakeable one) is that on this record Ian Felice finds a beautiful sweet spot somewhere between Bob Dylan and Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel). There’s a wonderful off-the-cuff quality to the recordings (it was recorded quickly over 4 days produced by brother Simone and featuring other brothers fraternal and otherwise) as though the way the songs sound on here isn’t necessarily how they will sound again. There are strange lyrical flourishes – “Well the aliens landed on Election Day and they stole your mother’s lingerie” from 21st Century is one example – and at points an almost gleeful release, like it’s a creative cleansing.
It sounds as though it is from a netherworld between dream and memory. Indeed the title tack is full of surreal images, the backing a simple repeated guitar figure with a droning counterpoint until it reaches a mid-point rush of joyous energy. Ten To One also skirts along the border between dream and reality and heaven and hell. Road to America is the jauntiest song, pushed along by drums, and more surreal images – “Disney’s ghost carves the Sunday roast”. Felice describes this song as being about mental illness and the chiming bells and images of clouds of slaughterhouse flies certainly offers a skewed view, though viewing contemporary events via a prism of madness is the only sane approach. Though the songs do deal with illness and death, it’s no “Carrie and Lowell” – it’s more robust, more expansive. Mt Despair is full of beautiful imagery and In Memoriam finds a lightness of touch that manages to mix the strange (communist bees) with the quotidian (The Price Is Right). Felice’s performance throughout is raw and totally convincing.
Domesticity is covered in Water Street, a song that has an indolent melody and a chorus of sorts that is full of tender melancholy. Without trying too hard it captures the fears and joys of parenthood and sharing your life with others. Will I Ever Reach Laredo moves slowly before opening up new vistas, a few piano chords augmenting the simple guitar providing a kick start and the drums enter – the song continues to grow, the promise of a city in the distance, always the wrong one, as though pushing on through a dream.
There won’t be many of you who aren’t familiar with the work of the Felice Brothers and if you are, you really should familiarise yourself with this. It is an excellent collection of songs that holds together remarkably well, full of intrigue and strange imagery. It’s a strong record and one I recommend heartily.