The Ike Reilly Assassination
Sparkle in the Finish
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2004, Volume 11, #11
Written by T.J. Simon
Chicagoan Ike Reillyís 2001 solo debut Salesmen and Racists received widespread critical acclaim and was an artistic triumph by any standard. Unfortunately, the wheels of commerce did not agree, and as a result, Universal Records sent Reilly packing due to underwhelming sales figures. Thus ends any semblance of "artist development" among the majors, and with that in mind, Reilly has reinvented himself as The Ike Reilly Assassination ("The IRA") for a fresh start with a new indie label. His first endeavor under the new moniker is Sparkle in the Finish, which showcases much of the same power, wit, and raw enthusiasm displayed on his previous effort while drawing from a similarly varied set of influences that includes Paul Westerberg, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, and The Pogues.
Nearly half of the tracks on Sparkle in the Finish were recycled from an EP sold at Reillyís shows over the past several years, and these tend to be the albumís strongest cuts. The discís opener, I Donít Want What Youíve Got (Goiní On) is delivered in a rapped rhythm with great lyrics and a chugging beat. Whatever Happened to the Girl in Me? finds Reilly delivering party-rock hooks, and Garbage Day is a Pogues-worthy drinking song. On The Boat Song (Weíre Getting Loaded), Reilly is at his pissed-off best as he lists all the people in the world that heíd like to ship off to sea, and the finest tune is a raw rocker titled Holiday in New York, which features Celtic elements, a driving drumbeat, adept keyboard playing, and crisp, punchy vocals. Unfortunately, many of the newer songs fail to rise as high. The overly-ambitious Itís All Right to Die suffers from awkward cadence changes between punk and folk styles and a misguided call-and-response conclusion. Elsewhere, the whispered vocals do a disservice to The Ex-Americans, and Reillyís attempt at blues on Ballad of the Choir Boy Bank Robber never gets off the ground.
Thereís little doubt that Reilly is a poet of Dylan-esque lyrical abilities, and itís clear that heís an intelligent writer with a lot to say. Six of the 11 songs on Sparkle in the Finish rank with the best tracks of 2004, and the filler on the album is largely forgivable. Furthermore, coupled with top-notch instrumentation from The IRA, itís obvious that Reillyís dismissal from a major label hasnít hurt his ability to compose some staggeringly good rock ínĎ roll.
Sparkle in the Finish is available from
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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