Saturday 28 September 2013

Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

Album review by

The clever (or probably accidental, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt) thing about Okkervil River is that, as well as being incredibly prolific as they are, many members have been involved in offshoots, guest-spots, collaborations and so on. Most notably the formation of Shearwater by two of the band's early members. Will Sheff is no longer a permenant member of that band, concentrating on this band instead, but Jonathan Meiburg has jumped ship to make Shearwater a permenant concern. Also they recently backed psych legend Roky Erickson on his recent album. Combined with the other odd appearance, even when Okkervil River don't have a record out, their name is in the music press almost constantly. You're not allowed to forget about them.

Despite forming in the late '90s, their first full-length wasn't until 2002, it wasn't until 2008 that I first heard them, and it's always seemed to me that the one thing that lets the band down is consistency, or rather the lack of it. When you take into account that my introduction to the band was the superlative 'Lost Coastlines', just about anything is going to pale in comparison. So it's perhaps unfair that their every move is compared to that masterpiece. Take a step back, forget that song, and listen to new album 'The Silver Gymnasium' without expectation or prejudice and you'll find that consistency isn't really a problem at all. At least not as far as this album is concerned. Yes, some songs are better than others, but the same goes for virtually every record ever made. When taken in this context, this is a solid indie-rock/Americana album.

There are no major shocks style-wise, and this is a good album that can be listened to as a whole, but if the thought of more US alt-rock and similar genres is starting to get a bit much then skipping through a few more instant tracks might not be a bad way to get started. Set your sights on formidable single 'Down Down The Deep River', the building 'Pink-Slips', the hook-filled 'Where The Spirit Left Us', 'White' with its grand military beat and the wintry single 'It Was My Season'. 'On A Balcony' is good for those with a taste for more modern country sounds, they play around with electronics on the poppy 'Stay Young'. There are no bad songs on 'The Silver Gymnasium' and it can safely be labelled a good album, and a grower too. Maybe not quite gold standard, but a decent aural workout. Perfect title really.

Okkervil River's website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Sep 28 Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, Canada
Sep 29 Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
Oct 01 Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
Oct 02 Revolution, Little Rock, AR
Oct 04 Austin City Limits, Austin, TX
Oct 11 Austin City Limits, Austin, TX
Oct 18 Tricky Falls, El Paso, TX
Oct 19 Crescent Ballrom, Phoenix, AZ
Oct 20 The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 22 The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Oct 24 Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
Oct 25 Showbox at the Market, Seattle, WA
Oct 26 Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, Canada
Oct 28 Knitting Factory Concert House, Spokane, WA
Oct 29 The Filling Station, Bozeman, MT
Oct 31 The Aquarium, Fargo, ND
Nov 01 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
Nov 02 Metro, Chicago, IL
Nov 03 Off Broadway, St Louis, MO
Nov 04 ACM@UCO Performance Lab, Oklahoma City, OK
Nov 16 Mojo, Hamburg, Germany
Nov 17 Postbahnhof , Berlin, Germany
Nov 18 Zoom, Frankfurt, Germany
Nov 19 Gebaude9, Cologne, Germany
Nov 24 Bitterzoet, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nov 25 Nouveau Casino, Paris, France
Nov 27 Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
Nov 30 Hostess Club Weekender, Tokyo, Japan

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