erasing clouds

Would-Be-Goods, The Morning After

reviewed by dave heaton

Would-Be-Goods' basic countenance is pretty and delicate, but with a certain elegant coolness that makes the music at first listen seem almost too proper, too controlled. It's a mistake to think that, though, as time spent with any of their releases will reveal. Lead singer/guitarist Jessica Griffin and bandmates lend her songs a friendly sense of intimacy and a subtle sort of genre-mixing, accompanying note-perfect melodies and lyrics that display an observant author's instinct for how human beings relate to each other.

The group's fourth album, The Morning After, has catchy tunes delivered through Griffin's gorgeous yet idiosyncratic singing voice (nicely complemented throughout by backing vocals from two of the other band members), yet there's more complexity here than you might expect from such a pretty pop-folk album. For starters, a few of the songs - beginning with the album-opening one-two punch of "Pantomine Devil" and "The Morning After" - are bolstered with a light rock n' roll backbone that swings the songs closer to the direction of arena singalongs without dumbing down the emotions or observations. On those songs that quality lies in the crisp guitar parts as much as anything, but a similar energy is also appropriately present in the completely un-rock song "Big Cat Act," which uses a chorus to die for within a story of rock n' roll theatrics and overshadowed loneliness.

Actually, the dichotomy of crowd-pleasing hooks and solitary melancholy is one that carries through the album, in a way. For every pop-rock anthem like "What Adam and Eve Did Next" and "Miss La-di-dah" there's songs like "Too Old," "The King of Lace" and "Innocent Abroad," which set the scene of a lone folk or pop balladeer singing at midnight to a crowd of two or three. One of my favorite examples of this is "Bluebeard," which starts like a Leonard Cohen dirge before quickly segueing into something more heavenly, a blissfully soft bed of harmonies. But don't ignore the Old West-style guitar daydreaming in the background. Or the sincere longing in the words and singing (the song ends with the plea "Save me...").

Like so many of the albums released by Matinee Recordings, The Morning After is on one level a perfect example of pop songcraft, of a musician's ability to create timeless melodies and use them in emotional yet ear-pleasing ways. But there's too much going on here for this album to be described with any variation on the phrase "just another..." It's a brief album, yet it's filled with captivating tunes, descriptions, styles, feelings, sounds, and so on. It's the sort of album that makes you regret all the time you spent searching for albums that would sound like nothing you've ever heard before. This isn't that album - there's no mind-warping experimentation or absolute reinvention going on here - but often the simplest of songs can be the most affecting and make the strongest impression on you, and here's one more example.

{Matinee Recordings:}

Issue 25, July/August 2004

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