Though most people outside of Texas probably think of the state as full of cowboys and other dolts like our current president, the Lonestar State has an interesting lineage of psych-rock acts. From 13th Floor Elevators to Jandek, Texas has produced some anything-but-conservative music. Charalambides, an ex-married duo originally from Houston, is making a name for itself in that pantheon with an eclectic, prolific output.
These have been banner times of late for Charalambides’s Tom and Christina Carter. Last year’s A Vintage Burden was the band’s most beautiful work to date, and Christina’s solo EP, Electrice, followed in that same pretty vein. Christina has also upped her profile through recent collaborations with DJ Shadow and Thurston Moore. But don’t think Likeness is some culmination in the band’s move into accessibility. Instead, the album retrenches into the languorous sonic stew of earlier Charalambides albums like 1992’s Our Bed Is Green.
Most of Likeness‘s nine songs stretch out over ten minutes. Christina, ever an ethereal chanter, intones lines she’s taken from traditional American folk songs. On “Memory Takes Hold,” she repeats the lyric “home from the war,” as though if she says it enough times, the wish might come true for our troops in the Middle East. The song is part of Likeness‘s angry center. Follower “The Good Life” takes on a bluesy, back-roads hue, with Christina defiantly declaring, in the face of modern life’s many dangers, “I will have an old age/ Full of rum and riot.” “Saddle Up My Pony” is similarly dark, with Christina similarly disgusted with the ways of the world: “Gonna find me a fair shake/ In this world somewhere.”
After that apex, Likeness dies down into repetitiveness, all cooed mantras and extended guitar loops. This isn’t Charalambides’s best work. But admirers can take hope in knowing that, with how voluminous the band’s output is, something better could be right around the corner.