Reviews

Old Blood

Author: Clifton Gates
06/25/2002 | Lost at Sea | www.lostatsea.net | Album Review
I can't do it. I just cannot get into Old Blood, the debut from Ted Stevens as a solo artist. I've been wrestling with it for three months now and I just can't latch onto it. To be completely honest, as you know I always am, I've been burned by this kind of thing before. This incestuous tunnel vision, this group mentality. It's run many a dream into the ground, and we need look no further than the implosion of the Elephant Six collective for evidence. And now it's happening again, but this time in Omaha rather than Athens.
 
When I first discovered Olivia Tremor Control I was intrigued, and that of course led me straight to Neutral Milk Hotel which succinctly changed my life. After that I became tangled in a web of Of Montreal, Elf Power, Secret Square and The Apples in Stereo. After Mangum I couldn't get enough of it, but with In The Aeroplane Over the Sea I'd copped a habit that nothing else could satisfy. Slowly everything turned to different shades of the same gray and I cut myself off. There would be no Summer Hymns for me because, damn it, I had to make a stand somewhere. I might never shake off the infection of "Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2" but I can live with it. It may mean that I can never love that way again, but at least I'm alive.
 
Unfortunately for Stevens, a talented musician in his own right, I've found myself in the same place, burned out on too many Bright Eyes and Good Life's to really feel anything anymore. It really is like drugs, to be honest. Old Blood is good shit- "Cinquefoils" sets the pace with it's muted electronic rhythm fading in and the acoustic brandishings rising up all in good taste- but it just isn't enough. I can't get high enough anymore. I mean goddamn it, I just came down from The Good Life's Blackout and I even had a taste of those new Cursive songs. I'm coked out to the max, so to speak. My septum is coated in scabs and rotting away, I'm putting tabs of acid under my eyelids, and I'm milking this bong for even a strong buzz. It just isn't happening for me, and I'm going to have to head into detox because there's no crack pipe in sight.
 
There really isn't anything remotely unprofessional about Old Blood and, in fact, I listen to it all the time. It's soothing and, for a synthesized alt-country post-rock record with all sorts of ingredients flittering about, it is a logistical nightmare that is remarkably well managed and deftly executed. "Cinquefoils" is the dominant track on the collection, but the agonizing ballad of "Captain" is also remarkably heartfelt and engaging, the chilling, wispy "I Know Moonlight" is powerful in its simplicity, and the spicy Latin-flavored "Confession" rich with texture.
 
But, for the love of God, can someone other than the plastic cheese of the Faint change something up a little bit over there at Saddle Creek? I can understand kindred spirits and next door neighbors bound with a common musical thread, but there have to be more variations on what you can get out of the guitar, violin, cello, lap steel, bass and drum machine. Doesn't there?
 
If you put Bright Eyes, Cursive, The Good Life and Lullaby For the Working Class into a blender you'd come out with something that sounded like Old Blood by Mayday. But you'd also come out with something that sounded like Blackout by The Good Life, Lifted by Bright Eyes... Which is fine for some, but I need a new drug.

Old Blood

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