REVIEW: Soft Canyon: Broken Spirit, I Will Mend Your Wings
Soft Canyon: Broken Spirit, I Will Mend Your Wings [Alien 8, 2003] (mp3s)
Three words? dejected rock epic
Anne of Green Gables once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Of course, then she got ripped on raspberry schnapps and fell through that barn roof, simultaneously shattering a chalk-ledger over Gus Pike's head, so I figure we should take her musings with a grain of salt. On their debut album Broken Spirit, I Will Mend Your Wings, Soft Canyon (consisting of two Tricky Woo remnants, a Local Rabbit, and two guys from bands I never heard of) temper their flattery of sun-drenched late 60's Californian rock (think CSNY or Jefferson Airplane) with their own innovations -- sedated harmonies and a serious emphasis on bad vibrations. This is what the peace era might have sounded like had the hippies taken only the brown acid, washing it down with Quaaludes and 1984.
The comparison of Soft Canyon to their hippie forefathers may be a bit ignorant on my part. After all, the band steers clear of the cluttered and meandering jams that bookmarked those times; all the songs on Broken Spirit are decidedly brief, and the musicians give beautifully restrained performances, elevating the claustrophobic feel of the murky recording. It's not a stretch to describe Canyon's guitar and keyboard lines as psychedelic in tone and style, but it is all played in a very calculated and controlled manner, not wasting a single note. And even when the band finally does let loose, on the 7-minute closer "We Threw Our Love Into the Universe," they have the good sense to avoid self-indulgent riff-wanking. Adding to the mood is Andrew Dickson's wounded-dog vocals, which fall somewhere between Robert Plant's yowl and Black Francis's growl. His delivery lends the lyrics (even the seemingly saccharine ones like "broken spirit/ I will mend your wings" and "send me your love/ from above") a dark, sinister edge.
My one complaint about Broken Spirit is also the thing I admire most about it: there isn't one song here that strays from the theme, like a token standout "single" to act as an oasis in this haunted swamp of moodiness and lyrical narcosis. And as far as total downers go, few are as fun and majestic as this.