...More Sounds from Spaghetti Westerns
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2000, Volume 7, #5
Written by John Metzger
Red Elephant is not for the faint of heart. On their debut album ...More Sounds from Spaghetti Westerns, the band starts with the pop sensibility of Crash Test Dummies and adds to it the pile-driving assault of Pearl Jam. Simple enough, you might say. However, the rest of their sound combines elements from the rough and tumble edges of '90s rock 'n‘ roll — from the chamber punk of Alejandro Escovedo to the pounding groove of Morphine.
No, Red Elephant is not your typical rock band, and as such they truly push the boundaries of what has become ready-made, radio-friendly alt-rock. The group combines cello, sax, guitar, upright bass, and vocals into an odd and eerie stew that paradoxically is utterly charming and downright creepy — all at the same time.
The guttural growl of vocalist Ken Fountain flails against the grinding rhythm laid down by drummer Kevin O'Donnell (Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire) and bassist Ken Schwartz (Cassius Clay), and he chants his poetically cryptic lyrics with an omniscient nod towards Jim Morrison. Rounding out the band is Josh Bell (Cassius Clay) who makes his sax sing — one minute with smoky room, acid-jazz opalescence and the next with a piercing groan — and cellist Eric Remschneider (Smashing Pumpkins, Filter), whose melodies either float with ghostly beauty or strike a piercing blow into the heart of the song.
There's no question that Red Elephant is onto something here with ...More Sounds from Spaghetti Westerns. The band's sound is new, it's fresh, it's different, and yet it's vaguely familiar enough to catch hold. Once it does, one thing is for certain — there will be no way to stop this lumbering beast from stomping its infectious rhythms deep into your soul.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box