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St. Paul and the Broken Bones (from the album Angels in Science Fiction available on ATO Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
As a follow-up to last year’s unexpectedly adventurous opus, The Alien Coast, St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ new album, Angels in Science Fiction, marks more of a return to the solid and stoic R&B sound that characterized the band’s earlier efforts. Nevertheless, it finds inspiration from two very different sources — singer Paul Janeway’s discovery that his wife was pregnant with their daughter as well as the words of several literary greats — Aristotle, William James, and John Steinbeck in particular. As a result, Janeway conceived the new album as a song cycle of sorts, one that takes the form of letters to his unborn daughter.
If that seems like an ambitious idea, then it certainly measures up to the accomplishments the Alabama-based band — Janeway (vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass), Browan Lollar (guitar), Kevin Leon (drums), Al Gamble (keyboards), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), Chad Fisher (trombone), and Amari Ansari (saxophone) — have achieved so far. Over the course of the past eight years, the group have become the darlings of the indie-loving legions, and, as a result, regulars at practically every festival that’s of any note whatsoever.
Nevertheless, their stirringly soulful sound remains a constant, and while the concept may appear to have potentially tampered with the template, it’s clear that their basic motif remains intact. Janeway’s high-pitched vocals are as emotive as they are effusive, no small accomplishment given the group’s fiery and frenzied reputation. “Sea Star”, “Chelsea”, “Easter Bunny”, and “South Dakota” are expressed with the undiluted delivery the concept demands, while the deeper desire expressed in the title track and “Magnolia Trees” retains the sentiment Paul Janeway clearly sought to suggest.
Happily, too, the band hasn’t abandoned the emphatic energy on which their reputation resides. “Wolf in Rabbit Clothes”, “Oporto-Madrid Blvd”, and “City Federal Building” are propelled by a steady strut that’s often in keeping with disco-like delivery. Yet given that this is Janeway’s heartfelt homage to his future child, the sincerity never strays far from the surface. It’s a bit more adventurous than the group’s earlier albums, given the hints of psychedelia and earnest intent that are tossed into the mix.
Ultimately though, it’s the tender trappings of songs such as “Lonely Love Song” and “Marigold” (which is also the name of his child) that sum up the sentiment completely. So, while they may be soaring up above, these angels still manage to maintain an earthbound presence and perspective. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of St. Paul & The Broken Bones from AMAZON
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