When I recently got Joseph Arthur’s newest album, 2004’s Our Shadows Will Remain, I couldn’t help but feel like I had already heard the song “Can’t Exist.” Well, a quick check proved that the song was featured on the CD sampler from the October/November 2004 Paste magazine.
But in my head, I heard the familiar bass line and then the lead guitar line, but then the song went somewhere else. Joseph Arthur’s song takes you to a great place, but it’s like I had heard a different version somewhere. That didn’t seem possible, so I chalked it up to bad aural memory.
This weekend I put Sharks & Minnows’ The Cost of Living in garage stereo for good yardwork music. It’s a CD that I never found time to review in 2004, but it’s quality English Rock that hops around . And then there was the bass line and then lead guitar line of Arthur’s “Can’t Exist,” except this was Sharks & Minnows’ “Cleopatra Song.” The Sharks & Minnows song was what I had in my head; that’s why Arthur’s song sounded familiar and yet didn’t go in the same direction.
Now I’m assuming that it’s just coincide. There’s no reason that Arthur would need to steal from Sharks & Minnows, and it doesn’t seem possible for Sharks & Minnows to steal from an Arthur song released 7 months after their disc. It’s one of those “music borrows from music,” “notes and chords land in the same general vicinity,” “artists placing their own punctuation on chord progressions” things.
Sharks & Minnows deliver an indie rock sound which melds on the song “The Slip” that comes on like a combination of Teenage Fanclub’s “Star Sign” and the Posies’ “Open Every Window.” With that Big Star lineage, Sharks & Minnows lands in the Folk-influenced English Rock section. They’re not the only band from the state of Georgia to end up on the wrong side of the pond in the Spectrum (see Five Eight). This is also causes us to revisit that perhaps wrong-headed idea that I have about the Byrds sounding very English in a way, so that all bands which emanate from those harmonies and sounds land together in the Folk-influenced English Rock section (for more on this, see a review on the Afternoons and Teenage Fanclub).
Sharks & Minnows definitely break out of any folky trap, but the songs essential come back to a form influenced by folk and acoustic songwriter. However, don’t let that comment fool you. This isn’t a band called Minnows. They can be small in their sound if they want to, but they can also crank out indie rock guitar like sharks. In other places, like “Saint of Anything,” you can also hear the pop jangle fuzz of Spearmint. There’s also hints of the atmospheric qualities of the Tragically Hip.
Look for Sharks & Minnows to release a new album soon on Two Sheds Music.
Meanwhile, Joseph Arthur’s flip side of that bass line and lead guitar line lead in a slightly different direction, landing Arthur in the English Rock section near the quintessential English Rock sound of Oasis and Coldplay while even more so being a descendent of the Psychedelic Furs. It’s the other worldly vocals meets the rock song. The Psychedelic Furs had that ability to take a broad stroke of wash painted over the beats. Arthur utilizes this same brush pattern.
“Stumble and Pain” has the crunch of the bass and a dark dance beat, yet an acoustic guitar layering the whole thing. On “Devil’s Broom,” the broad stroke of wash comes in Arthur’s haunting vocal, but that meets the power of a blues rocker. “Even Tho” sounds like the template for a plain old pop song like the Fine Young Cannibals would’ve done, but Arthur takes it to that other worldly place. Like listening to Robyn Hitchcock, with Joseph Arthur, you feel connected to the music, the words, and the emotions, but you’re also very aware that he’s taking you inside a world he’s created.
“Echo Park” is one of the more beautiful ballads released recently. There’s a Gospel quality to the chorus, “Freedom, my love won’t fade away.” Hearing the song, you can’t help but to believe that you’ve been on that street walking down from Echo Park.
All of these other worlds and stories are then coupled with Arthur’s artwork in an extensive liner booklet. Mystery reigns supreme in the art, but again, the repeated forms of faces are abstract and yet familiar. Arthur connects you to his imagination in a way that many of us fail to do as we try to describe the strange dream we had last night. Sing along, look along, and step inside these shadows.
Thanks to Joseph Arthur and Vector Recordings for the review copy of Our Shadows Will Remain.
Thanks to Sharks and Minnows and Two Sheds Music for the review copy of The Cost of Living.