Color me a shade disappointed. It’s my own fault, really. After acquainting myself with the band’s eponymous debut and split LP with Michael Gira last year, I pegged Akron/Family as the band to watch for those who like their folk a little freaky. Of course, talking yourself into believing that an album’s a classic before you’ve heard a single note is just about the dumbest thing you can do as a critic. But I’m not ready to give up on these guys just yet. Even if Meek Warrior doesn’t push Akron/Family to the front of the class, it shows the band still has all the right tools to make it there one day.
You have to admire the moxie it takes to come out of the corner throwing haymakers, and that’s exactly what this four-piece does with “Blessing Force.” The band members throw their best Friedberger change-up, reinventing the song at will. Driving percussion and frenzied guitars make way for a bizarro sing-in-tongues-along session, which transitions to loosey-goosey jam-band antics, which — well, you get the idea. Many of the individual parts are thrilling, but the lack of cohesion makes the song run out of steam before it’s gotten anywhere, and you wanna be somewhere after nine-and-a-half minutes. “The Rider (Dolphin Song),” the album’s other show-stopper, fares better but still lacks a satisfying pay-off. The tastes of explosive guitar riffs we’re teased with time and again, never really come to fruition. Instead, the song devolves into a too-long, wall-of-screech outro.
While the rawk portion of Meek Warrior (the album also features Hamid Drake and members of Do May Say Think and Broken Social Scene) is a bit of a letdown, Akron/Family hasn’t lost its knack for making pretty with the acoustics. The subdued lullabies that make up the remaining five songs feature haunting melodies and exhibit the band’s skill with harmonies, especially “Love and Space” the beguiling hymn that closes the album. These are some of the prettiest songs we’re likely to hear all year.
That Akron/Family can pull off these dichotomous sounds with equal conviction is easily its greatest strength. There simply aren’t any other bands out there right now that can match the band in this regard. We all know these guys are capable of injecting some method to their madness, with incredible results (“Raising the Sparks,” anyone?). If they can manage to hold themselves to that, there’s no telling what they can achieve, because the rest of the pieces are in place.
Artist: http://www.akronfamily.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/akak