The Autumn Defense
The Autumn Defense
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by John Metzger
Jeff Tweedy may be the dominant force in Wilco, but the triumphs that The Autumn Defense achieved with its sophomore set Circles certainly lends a lot of credence to the idea that there is at least one other force at work within the Chicago-based outfit. The 13 tracks that fill The Autumn Defense’s astonishingly beautiful, self-titled third album firmly reinforce this notion. Once again, The Autumn Defense, which was born from a collaboration between John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, didn't make an attempt to mask its affinity for the kind of stylistically tranquil pop to which AM radio DJs typically gravitated during the 1960s and early 1970s. Where Circles occasionally suffered from an approach that was too insular and lightweight for its own good, The Autumn Defense gave the material on its eponymous effort more room to breathe. As a result, the ensemble strikes a better balance between Southern California's eternal sunshine and the dreary winters of the Midwest.
Even so, there’s still no escaping The Autumn Defense’s influences: This Will Fall Away bears hints of Steely Dan’s sophisticated jazz-pop, while bits of The Byrds are sprinkled throughout We Would Never Die. Elsewhere, City Bells affixes David Crosby’s airy, folk-infused flights to a bossa nova groove that is plucked straight from Antonio Carlos Jobim’s endeavors; Where You Are takes root in the gentle yearning of Graham Nash’s soft balladry; Wintertight is a direct descendant of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations; and Estate Remains, one of the finest songs on the self-titled affair, adopts a cheerful, Paul McCartney-esque stride that is reminiscent of a subdued version of XTC’s You’re the Wish You Are I Had.
In other words, much like Circles, The Autumn Defense’s self-titled outing is more a triumph of its arrangements and its production than it is of the band’s ability to pen a song. Nevertheless, this time, there are more moments to be found when Stirratt and Sansone’s increasingly melodic intonations collide in a rather wonderful fashion with their wide-sweeping ambitions. In the end, the ensemble definitely stands as one of the better side projects on record, and considering the growth and maturity that the group has shown over the course of its three releases, The Autumn Defense clearly is on the verge of matching the brilliance of Wilco’s work, note for note. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box