Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard - One Fast Move Or I'm Gone

Rating: C+

Holy shit, it's another Jay Farrar album! When I was in college and first discovering Uncle Tupelo / Son Volt, this would have been a cause for celebration. In a lot of ways, Jay Farrar's voice - both his literal singing voice and also the way in which he interpreted Americana music - opened the door for me to worlds of new music. I listened the hell out of my Uncle Tupelo albums and Farrar's Son Volt's Trace. I even learned the chords to several songs, strumming my acoustic guitar and impersonating Farrar's gravelly warble.

Fast forward 10 years. Every couple years, whether under the guise of Son Volt or as a solo album, Farrar pumps out another album of his particular brand of emo Americana. At a time, it really resonated with me, but now it seems stale, and a little fake. There's a great quote in Greg Kot's Learning How to Die, the biography of Wilco, from Nick Sakes: "We could occasionally imitate Jay's singing and insert our own words: 'It gets real hot working down at my mom's bookstore.'" He has a great voice, but he is something of a poseur.

That's not to say I still don't respect the man or his talents. Trace, March 16-20, 1992, and Anodyne are still three of my favorite albums. But One Fast Move is not those albums. Farrar's singing is the worst of his career, frequently degrading into whining, particularly on the regrettable closer "San Francisco." One Fast Move also suffers from a lack of synergy; the album feels like Gibbard and Farrar are trading tracks, not collaborating. They have two of the best, most distinctive singing voices of their generation, but there are only a few moments on harmony on the whole album.

The Gibbard tracks are stronger: opener "California Zephyr" is probably the strongest front-to-back track on the album, and his voice sounds terrific on the choruses to "Williamine" and the title track. His restrained emoting fits in well with the lyrics and the country-tinged piano, guitar, and other backing instruments (such as pedal steel). Still, the strong moments are too rare.

I've never read Jack Kerouac's Big Sur, nor have I seen the movie for which this is the soundtrack. Evaluating it in a vacuum as an album, I found it disappointing.

Buy it from Amazon:
One Fast Move Or I'm Gone Music From Kerouac's Big Sur
One Fast Move Soundtrack Site
Jay Farrar's Site

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