REVIEW: Seekonk: For Barbara Lee
Seekonk: For Barbara Lee [Kimchee, 2003] (mp3s)
Three words? How very ‘lovely’
Seekonk play the kind of breathy, atmospheric, delicate hushed indie rock that was big in the mid-nineties. In love with its own preciousness, one can’t deny that Seekonk’s songs are indeed very nice. But that’s just it: they are too nice, too plain, too ordinary and finally too predictable.
In their attempt to be majestic, Seekonk employ the tried and true quiet-to-loud dynamic that has served similar bands quite well. The problem here is that the build-up is simply dull. Guitarist Todd Hutchison plays quite competently, but his compositions are thin and lack substance. The payoffs however, are something else. “Move” finds singer Shana Berry turning a regular “doo-doo-doo” into something magical. “Swim Again” erupts into a song that is truly stunning, with horns, beautiful operatic vocals and guitars that offer shades of Radiohead. “Maps Of Egypt,” meanwhile, has a gripping, string laden outro.
At times, the band unwisely tries to play against their strengths and offer no payoff at all. “Hate The Sun” and “Delivery” amble along prettily but frustratingly don’t go anywhere. It is somewhat telling that the best song, “You Got What Was Coming To You”, is also the shortest on the disc. A lovely acoustic guitar and string-driven pop song, its unique melodic phrasing is reminiscent of the late, underappreciated Smart Went Crazy. With Seekonk’s best ideas condensed into a four minute song, they are just short of brilliant.
Seekonk’s pop sensibilities are fantastic; it’s too bad they are shrouded in somewhat pale post-rock musings. Instead, For Barbara Lee finds the group focusing on being “artists” rather than “musicians” and the experience is a strained, frustrated one. The players fall into the most obvious and cliché of song structures and seem to be coming on the scene about seven years too late. Nevertheless, their pop leanings are as catchy and intelligent as the Shins and there Seekonk’s true strength lies.
It’s up to them to recognize it.