REVIEW: Essex Green: The Long Goodbye
The Essex Green: The Long Goodbye [Merge, 2003] (mp3s)
Three words? pleasant but dispassionate
The Essex Green’s The Long Goodbye is not a bad album as much as it is a potentially good album trapped inside a mess of over-production and over-thinking. Lyrically and musically, the record feels tethered to traditional song architecture; "Our Lady of Havana" is the only song here reminiscent of the idiot-savant wanderings of Essex Green's Elephant 6 past. The rest of the tracks feel strangely well mannered and in proper verse-chorus-verse fashion. Perhaps this is misunderstanding or narrow-mindedness on my part, but the E6 name has always meant psychedelic folk and pretentious-by-way-of-genius noise collections to me. Hearing the Essex Green, with their prettied up sound and unimaginative songcraft, is a bit like going to a Cubs game only to see Sammy Sosa bunt at every at-bat.
The Essex Green partially make up for the lack of spontaneity by providing enough instrumental loveliness to retain some of the listeners interest. The jazzy flutes of "By the Sea," the Nancy Sinatra march-beat of "Lazy May," the keyboards of the Beatlesy "The Boo Hoo Boy," and the choral call-and-answer of the Beatlesy-titled "Julia" are all very snappy and charming. A nice summer vibe permeates The Long Goodbye, almost as if it were constructed as a soundtrack to your imminent paddleboat adventures. Or, if you prefer, badminton escapades.
Perhaps in true inspiration from their ‘60’s pop influences, The Essex Green sound as if they simply were not trying to make this album thoughtful or complex. The Long Goodbye is never intense or puzzling. And I don’t think I heard a single singing-saw on the whole album. But if you’re a non-vegan hipster with a heart of gold, these mellow little songs are going to be killer at all of your summer barbecues.