"What am I?" - there couldn't have been a more suitable title for an absolute cracker of an album by a truly gifted instrumentalist and singer, Tim Loud. I do like when songwriters help listeners to understand what they are trying to bring across and don't hide their messages. Tim Loud certainly is one of those whose is trying to help - not only with lyrics that one can follow but also with the design and additional booklet as well as extracts from his lyrics. "What am I" gives us several perspectives and attitudes towards life and offers several roles one can see oneself in. This is represented playfully and often with a little twinkle in the eye in all of the 9 musical pieces. Elements of punk, rock, gospel, folk and country build a fantastically colourful mixture of music.
Almost each song has a surprise for the listener waiting, like a drum solo in "No Fight" or a hilarious Billy Bragg imitation in the opener "I don't care what Everybody else says about you,…". Tim Loud's vocal abilities are best displayed in rock driven ballads like "Itch" and "No Fight". There is a sort of happy anger in many of these songs that one is drawn to and also confused by, surely not accidentally: "…tried a lot of crazy things, even one time suicide…" - sung in a happy manner with some sweet backing vocals in the "That's life". That is confusing, yet does represent the ambiguity of life. Similarly, "Isolation" has such an energetic and uplifting sound that makes you literally want to jump around, but again the lyrics build a proper juxtaposition to it. It's about the demons one has to fight. A fine guitar solo comes into play and then flows nicely back into the song until it is played in unison with the chorus, another example of the many musical treats on this album.
The guitar work as such is absolutely worth listening to on this album - most of it delivered by Tim Loud himself, though in two songs additionally played by El Nico from X-Ray-Cat. Talking about the guitar work I have to mention "The Slip" - here we are treated to a sort of guitar dialogue of different, acoustic and electric guitars that is special indeed and another of the many musical delicacies on this album. I could go on and on, never even mentioned the unusual and really suiting gang vocals in some of the songs, let me just point to one more detail: There is a progressing melody in "Control" that is first just sung and played in unison with the a guitar, then the bass takes on the same scale, accompanied by the drums till it finally all gets back to the chorus - delicate. As to the sound (Kurt Wood and Ed Hall), I find it quite amazing that the acoustic guitar always is clearly displayed despite the rich electric guitar work. Also definitely worth a mention: Joel Murray on accordion and Kurt Wood on percussion. They do supply the music with irresistible and dynamic lifelines.
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