Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Release: Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - Unida Cantina

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Label: EmmaJava Records

By now, all of my friends should know I like Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.  Sonoran Hope And Madness is one of my favorite albums... It perfectly exemplifies the union of cowboy, suburban, and Mexican culture found in Arizona.  There has never been an album to better capture modern Arizona, but I digress...

After the last two albums, No More Beautiful World, and Turbo Ocho, I wasn't exactly holding out hope for greatness with RCPM's new album.  NMBW is forgettable, and Turbo is solid, but lacks the feel that made the band so great back in the day.  I have heard some of the new tracks in a live setting over the past week, and some of them were promising.

The album opens about like I expected, after the past two albums: with a watered down pop rock song, "All Over The Radio."  Unfortunately, the next song, "Heaven On A Paper Plate," is even worse.  "Dinero" is no improvement.  "Love Is A Road" starts out cool, but quickly reverts to the form established in the first three tracks.

"Go With The Flow" is the first track I enjoyed.  It's a little faster, but it would still be an average track on Turbo Ocho.  "Marie" is the first song on this album I consider to be truly excellent, and we're already on track six.

The back side is a little better; the first track, "Empty Highway," is still a little trite, but has a great tune.  This is a good song.  "Small World" is a nice, slow acoustic piece, and possibly the most country on the album.  After a short acoustic instrumental, we get "Just Got High," which brings us back into lame territory.  "Today Belongs To The Light" is a reggae-infused song, which is normally not RCPM's forte, but sounds good here.  "Paper Airplanes" belongs on a Gin Blossoms record.  The closer, "Play On," is a nice, medium-tempo song with a relatively catchy tune.

It's hard to pinpoint what exactly went wrong here.  The lyrics are trite...where are the stories?  It's been awhile since we've had a "Jack Vs. Jose," "Lupe Montosa," or "Switchblade."  Has the lifestyle described in "Captain Suburbia" finally gotten the best of Roger?  It's really hard to identify with, or care about, anything that is said here.  Is it the slick production, bereft of any dynamics?  Thom Jurek said it best in his all-music review: the songs are "simply generic, indistinguishable from a morass of American music that has rightfully faded from memory."

This band is still one of the best live acts to see in the Phoenix area.  They still put on a heck of a show.  Their studio output, however, seems to be in a state of near-constant decline.

1All Over the Radio3:13
2Heaven on a Paper Plate3:43
4Love Is the Road4:13
5Go with the Flow3:36
7Empty Highway3:52
8Small World3:55
9Unida Cantina1:18
10Just Got High3:37
11Today Belongs to the Light4:36
12Paper Airplanes3:41
13Play On3:22


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