Acoustic Syndicate - Long Way Round

Acoustic Syndicate
Long Way Round

(Sugar Hill)

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12

Written by John Metzger


Despite the quaint images of a bucolic, back porch gathering that are conjured by its moniker, Acoustic Syndicate deeply buries its folk and bluegrass roots within a sophisticated scheme of artful pop-rock bliss. On its fifth studio outing Long Way Round, the band once again explores a myriad of styles with unbridled enthusiasm, invoking images of the biting funk-blues of Little Feat on the title track; the quirkily uplifting jubilance of Phish on both Talk and The Rhythm of Us; and the worldly grooves of Peter Gabriel on the brief snippet Wake, while also working its way through every conceivable permutation that a combination of Bruce Hornsby, Leftover Salmon, Sting, and Bruce Cockburn will allow. Throughout the collection, the groupís instrumental proficiency is impeccably invincible, and the sounds of soaring saxophone, burbling bass, fluttering banjo, stinging electric guitar, and tight-knit harmonies fold together to form intricate patterns of gloriously radiant beauty. The problem, however, is that Acoustic Syndicate has a tendency of taking an otherwise superb idea and thrashing it to the point of tedium. Not only is Long Way Round a far too lengthy endeavor, but some of its material also becomes egregiously redundant, lingering far beyond what is reasonably necessary to prove its point. Making matters worse is the notion that while the ensemble is quite good at assuming the persona of its heroes, it never constructs an unique identity for itself. As a result, there isnít anything to be found on Long Way Round that isnít done elsewhere to better effect. That doesnít mean that the outing isnít enjoyable ó lord knows, there are plenty of far lesser endeavors unleashed upon an unsuspecting public each year ó but it does say something about the strengths and weaknesses of the band as well as what it will need to accomplish in order to graduate to the next level. In short, Acoustic Syndicate clearly has the talent; it simply needs a little more focus. starstar Ĺ

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2004 The Music Box