Giant Sand – proVISIONS
I will go so far as to say that I don’t actually like this very much. Don’t get me wrong, Howe Gelb is one of the most remarkable and gifted musicians of his generation as far as I am concerned, but then, you can’t always like it all.
Basically, the part about Gelb with which I am the most smitten is his amazing ability to let his songs amble along as if they have lost all sense of where they were going. His tracks stop and start, fade in and out, lurch, stumble and generally carry on as if there are times he has forgotten that he was even playing a song to begin with. ‘Hm? What? Oh, right the guitar. Um, yes, what was I doi.. oh yes, that song!’
It shows real confidence in both his music and his audience if you ask me, not that he shouldn’t have that confidence after so many years at the pinnacle of his art form. Sno Angel Like You was a break though, incorporating gospel choirs into freshly polished pop songs to wondrous effect. I thought it was brilliant, and still very much Gelb. There followed an abrasive, spiky Giant Sand record, All Over the Map, and since then there have been a couple of slightly loose home recordings.
This is Howe’s first serious, shiny release in a few years, and I am just not as smitten as usual. The songs are still the polished ones that we saw no Sno Angel, but the eccentric edge has gone. There is barely any noodling, scratching or teasing. In their place come thirteen slightly squishy alt-country numbers that lack almost all of the idosyncratic genius for which I love their creator. If you want to start with Giant Sand, I wouldn’t start with this. If you are a fan, I think you can skip this with confidence and, like me, settle back down again to wait for the next one.
Giant Sand – Increment of Love
Giant Sand – Stranded Pearl