String Cheese Incident
First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2001, Volume 8, #6
Written by John Metzger
Perhaps it was the time that String Cheese Incident spent touring with former Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh. Perhaps it was the guiding hand and brilliance of producer Steve Berlin. Perhaps String Cheese Incident simply grew up. Or perhaps it was the combination of all three forces. Simply put: With Outside Inside, String Cheese Incident has finally laid down an album worthy of the band's collective talent.
Gone are the annoying silly little antics that have long frequented String Cheese Incident's albums and concerts. And though the band still owes a tremendous debt to fellow joke-rockers Phish, Outside Inside finds String Cheese Incident using its predecessor's sound as a springboard for taking a giant leap forward in staking out its own turf. Throughout the disc, the group blends bluegrass and standard jam band fare with world beats to form a kaleidoscopic array of joyful sounds for the soul. In fact, it's these elated rhythms and cosmic grooves that allow the songs to blur together into a cohesive and dreamlike whole. Only Up the Canyon stands apart from the rest, providing an earthy, if somewhat disparate, conclusion to the album.
As for the other ten tracks, String Cheese Incident's positive lyrics and irresistible melodies bind together to fuel the band's most engaging set of material to date. The band still manages to push the envelope, extending the length of its songs by embarking upon mind-bending musical journeys. Outside Inside's two instrumental tracks (Drifting and Latinissmo) shimmer and shine with an understated beauty; big band horns give Black and White a jazzily optimistic luster; and when the band shifts gears midway through Search, they launch into a jubilant fanfare that hurtles through a space and falls somewhere between Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett.
But Outside Inside also finds String Cheese Incident moving far beyond mere grooves. For this outing, the band's members put significantly more effort into their songwriting. From the mind-opening expansiveness of Close Your Eyes to Black and White's colloquy on race relations and from Lost's pointed take on American life to Sing a New Song's call for change, String Cheese Incident serves up a collection of lyrics that captures the futility of the overworked American consumer culture. Instead of being downbeat, however, the band strives to make a difference through both its uplifting lyrics and its celebratory musical interludes. Make a joyful sound, indeed!
Outside Inside 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 © 2001 The Music Box