Another Great Rock Album
Elliott's new album is a rock album. Adding any other names to it - postcore/alteremo/punkpop, etc. - doesn't help. From the opening drone to the last track, it contains a unified but indecipherable fusion of elements. Chris Higdon's voice reminds me of Thom York of Radiohead, while certain guitar passages evoke The Cranberries and others suggest Led Zeppelin or even Queensryche. Added to these are violins, viola, cello, piano and seemingly endless guitar effects. This Louisville band's lyrics are usually fragmented phrases, but even this is not a rule. The words to the title track are relatively plain and to the point: Don't send me away / Come with song in the air / Bring your life and your love.... Higdon frankly mumbles the words to these songs, so most of the lyrics are indecipherable even when the words do make sense.
But what none of this tells you is the continuity of feeling and sound that pervades the album. It doesn't tell you how affecting Higdon's singing is, even when you don't know what he's singing about but hear the repetitions that form the focus of each song: You are the World; Carry On; Do I try? Do I fall? This is an album that is largely atmosphere and mood, yet they are atmospheres and moods that change dramatically from song to song. "Carry On" and "Away We Drift" are both great songs and they are worlds apart. In all the changes that occur throughout the album, there is no sign of boundaries. What is accomplished in one place with small movements of notes and broken incantations is done elsewhere by overlapping dissonant tones and yet elsewhere by squalling lead guitar and pounding drums that sound suspiciously like heavy metal.
I've heard albums that were dead: The songwriter and/or singer and/or guitarist and/or rhythm section were asleep at the wheel and there was nothing happening. Everyone knows the experience of finding whole sections of albums made by their favorite bands that are placeholders, tracks ticking away time and bringing no joy.
The sound on Song in the Air may be difficult to describe and impossible to pigeonhole without lying or oversimplifying, but the effect is undeniable. This is an album that's alive. This is a band making music with their eyes open. And it's when music is made this way that descriptions matter least.
A lot of music has passed through my collection while Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon and Appetite for Destruction have remained. And there's nothing much in common between those albums, but that they were great rock music. I'm still waiting for someone to give me a satisfactory explanation or description of Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking. Fifteen years after the release of that album, only the music matters. When I've forgotten what people have said about Elliott, I'll still remember the songs I heard here.