The Watson Twins
Talking to You, Talking to Me
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2010, Volume 17, #4
Written by John Metzger
Mon April 12, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
Talking to You, Talking to Me might be only The Watson Twins’ second full-length endeavor. Yet, the outfit already has demonstrated its penchant for muddying expectations. This time, however, the group doesn’t accomplish its goal in a good way.
On its 2008 affair Fire Songs, The Watson Twins jettisoned the country-soul luminescence that had clung to its EP Southern Manners as well as the rustic ambience that had graced Rabbit Fur Coat, its profile-lifting collaboration with Jenny Lewis. With Talking to You, Talking to Me, the ensemble admittedly altered its approach, though it did so in a fashion that was decidedly less drastic. Bits and pieces of everything that preceded the effort are buried inside the endeavor, though initially, they aren’t always easy to identify.
Without a doubt, Talking to You, Talking to Me has something for everyone. Over the course of the album, intimate folk songs (Snow Canyons) and bubbly pop tunes (Savin’ You) brush against smoky, jazz-inflected numbers (Forever Me). Likewise, nods to Blondie, The Cranberries, and Dusty Springfield are omnipresent. Although the hodgepodge of genre-shifting textures often seems to have been designed to showcase the breadth of the outfit’s range as well as to keep its fans off-balance, the final product proves to have the opposite effect. Its echo-laden atmospherics lend Talking to You, Talking to Me a homogenous tonality, giving credence to the notion that the set was born of confusion over how The Watson Twins should proceed.
Too much of Talking to You, Talking to Me feels tentative. Part of the reason for this, however, may be that The Watson Twins’ new material is woefully inadequate for showcasing the group’s talent. Throughout the set, The Watson Twins is backed by members of My Morning Jacket and Everest. Yet, instead of bolstering the moody aura of the endeavor, the indie-rock add-ons brew a strange disconnection between the accompanying music and The Watson Twins’ vocals. There is no give-and-take between the musicians and the singers: The arrangements lie on one plane, while the lyrics drift along another. Consequently, Talking to You, Talking to Me is plagued with an inherent level of artificiality, and its songs sound like amateurishly unrefined bar-band fare.
It is telling that the only truly memorable track on Talking to You, Talking to Me is essentially a rehashed rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You. Everything about The Watson Twins’ Midnight — from its spookily ticking cadence to its swirling organ swells to its explosive, blues-baked guitar solos — has been carefully culled from the various permutations of Hawkins’ original model. In the hands of The Watson Twins, these components are equally soulful and intoxicating, and for a moment, it sounds as if all of the participants have finally locked into a groove.
Alas, all of the songs that follow Midnight, much like the handful of tracks that precede it, slip into a pattern of hazy innocuousness that is difficult to shake. Slowly, it consumes and inevitably suffocates Talking to You, Talking to Me, erasing all of the progress that The Watson Twins had made on Fire Songs. It’s a shame, too, because the way in which Chandra and Leigh Watson’s voices intertwine remains quite lovely. Unfortunately, throughout Talking to You, Talking to Me, the beauty is lost in the din of the duo’s unimaginative formula. ˝
Of Further Interest...
Talking to You, Talking to Me is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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