South San Gabriel
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5
Written by John Metzger
For those souls impatiently biding time until the release of the next Radiohead album, hereís some welcome news to tide you over: South San Gabrielís latest disc Welcome, Convalescence very well may be the next best thing. Itís an ambitious effort, full of claustrophobic soundscapes merged with dark, poetic lyrics about dissolving relationships and death. For the record, the band does struggle at times to keep its momentum going, and as a result, the latter portion of the disc does become mired in its own bleakness. But the rest is so breathtakingly perfect, itís hard to resist its sullen charms.
Take, for example, the opening track New Brookland. An organ drones as guitars begin to filter through the songís dusky terrain; a pedal steel weeps gently from above with angelic beauty; lyrically, a car veers off-course, plunging its way into a lake; and through the music, one can feel the soft laps of water caressing the shore. Likewise, asphyxiation from a gas leak is turned into a lazy lullaby, replete with sound effects that ominously portend the approaching doom of the tuneís inhabitants. The rest of the songs drift by with a similar dreamy style that cloaks swirling, nightmarish horrors within a soothing, calm veneer.
Elements of the Tragically Hip and Pearl Jam are scattered effectively here and there throughout Welcome, Convalescence and equally strong is a clear correlation to Wilcoís momentous Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yet, itís Radiohead that most frequently comes to mind. Better still, South San Gabriel does more than merely emulate the sounds of its influences. Frequently, the group succeeds in matching them note for note, emotion for emotion by fitting words and music hand in hand to make mini-movies of aural grandeur. Ĺ
Welcome, Convalescence 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 © 2003 The Music Box