If you can handleFrench Kicks
, you’d probably better get to Walter’s this Friday to see openersYoung Mammals
Paul Collins Beat , Ribbon of Gold (Rock Indiana)
Paul Collins’ Beat may have put out some pretty great songs, and their cult loves the records (this is what cults do), but more objective ears recognize that the music has a few essential shortcomings that leave plenty of room for frustration. Ribbon of Gold, unfortunately, is mostly an exhibition of those shortcomings.
You’ll find none of the mature storytelling and introspection of 2004'sFlying High
: Collins is back on a guitars-and-girls trip, and he does little to make his chosen subject matter seem wise, mature or even well-contemplated.
The sound is immaculate: Bottom-line is that there are very few musicians who can create the sort of jangly wall of pop achieved by Collins, and he corners the post-Petty power pop motif in a surreal way. Collins and Co. have a way of constructing melodies that become lodged in your mind, real, honest hooks that seem both familiar and fleeting.
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Which is fun, except that “Hey DJ” longs for something but feels almost obligatory, like a forced tribute. “Ribbon of Gold” is a tale of the grizzled veteran on the road, but it opens no wounds and heals no scars, claiming “I don’t listen when the boys start bitchin’ bout the way the way that things went down in the past. ‘Cause I was there, and I was listenin’. I’m tellin’ you we had a blast.” The saccharine “I Still Want You” is likely Collins’ best vocal performance on the album. “Without You” is next (and trite), followed by the huge and hook-y “Big Pop Song,” an “Alex Chilton”-style lament that has admirable energy despite its aimless wandering. “Falling in Love With Her” is a power-pop masterpiece, and it’s followed by a comparable tune, “She Doesn’t Want To Hang Around With You,” a rollicking punk number that has as much energy as the entire album.
The rest of the record does nothing to combat the issues seen in the preceding tracks, though Collins’ Americana influence rears its head. Had he followed that impulse instead of the other, Ribbon of Gold could’ve been a pretty great record. As is, the whole thing feels like a grasping that never landed, a sneeze that never happened, or a swinging hammer that never connected.
A bad record is one thing. A disappointing record is an entirely different matter. Given his body of work, the apparent growth he experienced during the 90s, and any number of critical nitpicks, you’d have damn well expected Paul Collins to come along with a fine record. We’ve been offered a wholly disappointing recording which has fun moments that fail to outweigh their errant moments. Fans: Buy it. Explorers: Get the Beat’s first record. – Chris Henderson
CORRECTION: This post originally listed a Zipperneck show as an option for this Saturday. Turns out that show is actually next Saturday. Sorry about that.