First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Tue March 25, 2008, 06:35 AM CDT
In crafting their ninth studio effort Better Dreams, The Kennedys turned to an unlikely source for inspiration. Apparently, Maura Kennedy had been documenting her dreams in a journal, and in pouring through its contents, she and her husband Pete realized that what they held in their hands was the basis for a concept album. On paper, this sounds like an idea that just might be crazy enough to work. Reality, however, proves the opposite to be true.
There’s no doubt that The Kennedys’ plans for Better Dreams were ambitious, and although the group delved into a wide range of issues — including reincarnation (Breathe), the erosion of civil liberties (American Wish), and the collapse of a West Virginia coal mine (Sago Mine) — there is a sense of cohesion to the material. Yet, the songs themselves never quite pass muster. There is little poetry to the lyrics. At their best, they are tolerable; at their worst, they are inconsequential; and more often than not, the messages simply feel forced.
Musically, too, Better Dreams is a mixed bag. No Mornings, for example, suffers because it sounds as if it had been written for a Disney film, while on Give Me Back My Country, The Kennedys merely turns its politically minded musings into a generic, populist anthem. On the other hand, the arrangement for Sago Mine — which features an eerie slide guitar accompaniment by David Jacobs-Strain — perfectly captures the mourning that is inherent in the terrible tale that is told. Likewise, the jingle-jangle melodies that grace the joyous, sitar-laced I Found a Road; the psychedelic folk-flavored title track, and the bubbly bluegrass-tinged In My Dreams are genuinely winsome. The bottom line, though, is that Better Dreams is mostly a forgettable endeavor that sounds as if it had been made by indie upstarts rather than industry veterans.
Better Dreams is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box