Elliott BROOD – [Album]

Friday, 11 September 2009

Since first appearing on record store shelves five years ago, Elliott BROOD has infiltrated the minds and hearts of listeners twice already, both times in a similar, but dramatically affecting, way: with a bit of the deep south in them and the shadows of the gothic craziness one can find there on them, they've started slowly and carefully, building with each successive track on a given record until, about halfway in, listeners discover they've been launched headlong into the most potent drug rush they've ever experienced. They didn't see it coming and didn't notice when the strain was injected but, by the time they notice the world is spinning, they're also relaxed and at ease enough to just serenely watch it all unfold – they're hooked. It's a simple methodology, but most of the best and tantalizingly addictive ones are – and why complain? It has won Elliott BROOD a devoted fan base.

…But now – because every rule needs an exception – Elliott BROOD has turned its own game on its ear with Mountain Meadows.

Anyone familiar with the band's standing modus will be able to mark right away that something is very different this time out. There is no ramp up or salacious build, from the opening of “Fingers And Tongues,” Elliott BROOD doesn't creep in at all; in fact, they hit the ground marching and, with an arsenal of time-honored rock hooks in hand, catches listeners right away. That isn't to say that the band with the suitcase-hammering drummer spontaneously turned rock on their audience – it's clear in listening that Elliott BROOD still has folk, country and hill country revival tones right up front where they should be – but the single word that best qualifies qualifies the difference between Mountain Meadows and everything Elliott BROOD has done before is that this album is “bigger.” There is no build here; that marvelously addictive vibe is right there from note one and what Mountain Meadows does is offer an excellent sequence of songs that remain at that highest point; each could could be a classic someday, because they're that well-written and treated as such both by the band and by Mountain Meadows' producer John Critchley.

After the initial introductions are made and the band sends adrenaline levels shooting up with “Fingers And Tongues,” Elliott BROOD keeps hitting listeners and shucks delicacy for a sort of roots-based bombast that's epic in its own way as the acoustic instruments the band employs begin to punch harder that those of many balls-out rock bands. After “Fingers And Tongues” releases its grip, “T-Bill” rolls out the ceremony and red carpet for an enormous-beyond-comprehension jamboree before “Without Again” lifts some Gary Glitter for startling (but not unwelcome) contrast to further push the band forward as its own kind of not-quite-rock and not-quite-country behemoth.

Particularly in the early playing of Mountain Meadows, Elliott BROOD seems to go out of its way to present itself as a large and imposing institution and the band wears that suit surprisingly well as they knock their way through “Chuckwagon,” “Woodward Avenue” and “Write It All Down For You” –  which would all be regarded as songwriting and performance achievements in any band's songbook – but toward the end of the record, a greater sense of nostalgia begins to overtake the bandmembers and they soften up a bit because of it. The sweetness begins to creep in beginning with “Notes” and proceeds through “31 Years,” culminating at the end of the album with “The Body” – the most heart-wrenching song Elliott BROOD has recorded to date. These are the moments when it's easiest to fall in love with Elliott BROOD because while their muscle is what wins the fanfare, the cracked regret and resignation in Mark Sasso's voice during a ballad can melt the hardest hearts with the warmth and reflective quality of it. “The Body” falls as the second-to-last track in Mountain Meadows' run-time and so, were it not for “Miss You Now,” the album would end on a very down note but happily, while “Miss You Now” is by no stretch a happy song, the resignation and forward-looking tone of it does indeed leave it brighter. Because of that too, Mountain Meadows is the sort of record that the band can only hope will find as many ears as possible; it is a great listen that presents the band at the height of their creative powers and it will truly take something remarkable from them to overshadow this achievement.



Elliott BROOD – 'Write It All Down For You' – Mountain Meadows


Mountain Meadows
is available now as a Canadian import on Amazon , but will have a domestic release in the United States on October 6, 2009 from Six Shooter Records/ADA.

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