Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band - 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band
13 Blues For Thirteen Moons

Yeah, we're pretty much fucked.

As a resident of the United States of America, I sometimes wonder where we went wrong. The economy is on the verge of the biggest collapse since the great depression, our government has our military off fighting a war that was started based on completely shoddy (and that's putting it nicely) information, and our news media shovels non-stop breathless gossip about the most scantily-clad pop tarts instead of actually doing their jobs. Perhaps they're just giving the people what they want, though, and if that's the case we deserve a good portion of the scurrilous comments thrown our way.

Some of us are trying, though, really. It's a hell of a slog and it's hard to make out any sort of end in sight, but it's about all you can do short of moving away or simply going comfortably numb.

After a several-year hiatus, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band certainly don't sound like they're ready to go quiet into the night, and it's both a good thing and a somewhat frustrating one to hear them back bellowing down through the valley. First off, I will say that the group has never sounded quite as angry as they do now. 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons consists of four, epic-length tracks (almost exactly fifteen minutes apiece) that swirl together their usual guitar squalls, strings, and world-weary vocals from Effrim Menuck. After 12 short tracks of drone (yes, the album actually starts in full with track thirteen), "1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound," and as if the title weren't obvious enough, the slow-building and ultimately searing instrumentation and incendiary lyrics come out blasting on both fronts.

As the title suggests, "13 Blues For Thirteen Moons" riffs with a sluggish, sandblasted blues riff that isn't too far off from what one might have heard from Black Sabbath back in the day, while the group again launches into a full on attack before stepping back into something only slightly more subdued before an frantic ending that boils over with desperation.

The last half of the release finds them at odds even with themselves, and while it makes for some occasionally exciting listening, it ultimately feels fairly uneven. "Black Waters Blowed / Engine Broke Blues" is all push and pull, with quiet, fragile moments that are offset by blasts of free noise for the first section. In the second half, it saunters into one of the more moving sections of the release, with female harmony vocals and uneasy tension that keeps writhing on the edge without ever going loud. In the past, a song like the album-closer of "Blindblindblind" might have been one of my favorites, but given the fragile beauty of early work from the group, the single long crescendo of the track is more rote than surprise.

In the end, 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons is sort of like the audio equivalent of a guerrilla attack. It's a bit unfocused and messy, with some spots that are devastating in their effect while others miss their mark. It's both one of the loudest things that the group has ever done, and is at the same time sort of a slow burner, with songs that never quite rock out with a quick pace, but instead thrash around with a dirging rage in places. It's not their best work to date, but it definitely taps into a deep well of both anger and despair. Considering how many artists are taking such a stand with their music, that's worth something by itself.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2008-03-20 19:52:44