Friday, March 09, 2012

Jonathan Segel: "All Attractions" (album review)

No one can doubt the impact Camper Van Beethoven have had on the American indie music underground.  Now we get to hear the impact one of their less-celebrated members, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Segel, has had on the band itself as he released his solo album All Attractions this week.

From the lengthy jams and spacey instrumentals of All Attractions, it become clear just how integral Segel's contributions (particularly his violin) have been to the Camper Van Beethoven sound.

There are no shortage of sprawling opuses.  In fact, the album opener, "(Ever and) Always", spends a good 6-minutes with porpoise call-like guitar and violin lines before breaking out into a traditional rock song.  "Singularity" and the dry gulch "The Dark Touch" take you on similar aural Odysseys.  The closer, "I Know You Know Me (Hey You)" is a 12-plus minute giant of a song that builds and builds to a compelling climax.

Along the way there are a few more accessible numbers.  "Hey You (I Know You Know Me)" (love the Neil Young aesthetic) is a mumbled track with a Leonard Cohen quality melancholy to it.  A cow punk groove powers the Meat Puppet-esque "She's a Peach".  The dark, snaking tribal rhythms of "What Goes Around" are absolutely hypnotizing.

In the end though, All Attractions is a difficult album for me to rate.  It's not the type of song structure that appeals to me, at all.  However, I can still tell that it's masterfully arranged and performed.

All Attractions has a companion instrumental EP, Apricot Jam, to go along with it.

Best tracks: "What Goes Around", "I Know You Know Me (Hey You)"

Track listing for All Attractions:
  • (Ever and) Always
  • Hey You (I Know You Know Me)
  • She's a Peach
  • Listen
  • Singularity
  • What Goes Around
  • The Dark Touch
  • The Good One
  • Winter
  • I Know You Know Me (Hey You)

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