Poseidon and the Bitter Bug
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2009, Volume 16, #5
Written by John Metzger
Wed May 13, 2009, 05:30 AM CDT
For the first time since issuing Strange Fire in 1987, the Indigo Girls is operating as an independent act. This decision, however, wasnít born of its own choosing. Instead, the outfit was cut loose from its contract with Hollywood Records after its tenth album Despite Our Differences failed to meet expectations. Such is life in the cutthroat music business, where a heavy emphasis increasingly is placed upon short-term profits rather than long-term growth. Considering that it hadnít received any kind of meaningful support for quite some time, one might suspect that the Indigo Girls simply would take a deep breath and exhale a huge sigh of unburdened relief. Yet, judging from the material on its latest endeavor Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers clearly has had its confidence shaken by this recent turn of events.
On Despite Our Differences, the Indigo Girls sounded fully rejuvenated, even as it stretched its wings and turned its music in a direction that was decidedly more pop-oriented. As a result, the album seemed to signal that, after years of experimenting with its sound, the group finally had settled upon an approach that would form a firm foundation for the next stage of its career. In crafting Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, the Indigo Girls continued to follow this plan of attack. The ensemble reunited with producer Mitchell Froom, and he dutifully polished the material on the first half of the endeavor until it began to glisten and gleam in the sunlight. The latter half of the set presents the same slate of songs in a stripped-down acoustic format. Somewhere along the line, though, everything went terribly awry. Rather than sounding as if they have been liberated by their newfound independence, Ray and Saliers appear to be utterly confused about how to proceed.
From its lofty title to its two-disc presentation, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug seems to indicate that the Indigo Girls wanted to make a major statement with its first independent offering in more than 20 years. Nevertheless, the idea of including two different versions of every song on the set might not have been the wisest choice. If anything, this style of presentation magnifies the tug of war between folk and pop that always has existed within the Indigo Girlsí work. Yet, instead of elevating the entirety of the affair, it is downright detrimental to the outingís overall success.
Itís telling that the finest moments on Poseidon and the Bitter Bug occur during the gentle, rolling folk tune Iíll Change and the positively Dylan-esque Second Time Around. Both songs fit neatly alongside the other classic tunes in the Indigo Girlsí repertoire, but most important of all, they unfold in an honest and unforced fashion. Unfortunately, though, the full-band portion of Poseidon and the Bitter Bug largely obscures the Indigo Girlsí tightly knit harmonies, and while the acoustic half of the set digs deeper into the emotional content of the groupís lyrics, it plays like a compilation of unfinished demos. In other words, the best version of a track like Ghost of the Gang likely lies somewhere between the dueling renditions featured on the collection. As a result, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug feels frustratingly unfocused and scattered. The Indigo Girls might have been striving for transcendence, but it ultimately settled for mediocrity.
Of Further Interest...
Poseidon and the Bitter Bug is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box