Slow Children – cottoncloud9 | 2016 – 3.5
(…continued from last post)
The ticking hi-hats ping-ponging back and forth in the stereo field and acoustic guitars in the intro to “Thelma + Louise” were a deceptive cover for the most synthetic track here with a thwacking drum machine rhythm track and synth accents calling back to 1982 in the biggest way on this new album. As did Ms. Shazar’s non-legato singing, delivering each syllable to the beat in her distinctive manner. The sampled pizzicato strings added some rare tension to this current album; not unlike the plucking of taut neck tendons.
Following that nostalgic slice of angst, the placidly paced “In Situ,” was well placed for great pacing. It acted like a healing balm in its place with the gently paced piano notes folding into the acoustic strums of Chinich. I absolutely love the lyric below.
“It’s a long way from here to there
Sometimes there’s no there, there, there, there”“In Situ”
It not only managed to reference Gertrude Stein’s witheringly poetic dismissal of…so many things, but by doubling her quote it brought attention to a lack of compassion and reassurance. The way Ms. Shazar faded on the last two “there, there’s” left no mistake to her motherly intent on delivering that line. The tambourine rhythm here was the only percussive device as the song was as gentle and the ghost harmonics that faded up on the coda had me straining to hear more.
The winsome folk sound of “I’d Remember” was far away from the tension that this band had built its foundation on. It was a song for a gentle, breezy, late summer afternoon of bittersweet reflection. “You’re Bored”‘ was built on the acoustic template of the album with a touch of the blues but what made this song so [ironically] memorable was the A/A/B/B and full-on A/A/A/A rhyming scheme of its verse and chorus structure. How better to invoke boredom and repetition than by such a limited palette?
The album ended with the twangy, almost country music sound of “Lonely Bee.” The wistful number carried out the end of the album on a resigned, yet hopeful note. A far cry from the two-steps from adolescent angst of the early work. And that, in a nutshell, is what makes “Cottoncloud 9” such an engaging listen. It’s a leap back to a writing team that had been apart for half a lifetime and brought their respective growth experiences to the writing table and had no problem exploring the changes to their sound without trying to resurrect anything other than the partnership.
Normally, when a band gets the Rock G.P.A. treatment there are more than three albums, with some touching perfection while others fall far short of that standard. In short; there can be a lot more drama. But this time we took a look at a band with a very small footprint of albums, owing to the brief burst of work at the start of their careers followed by 30+ years apart. The joy of this album was that there was almost no similarity to the sound of the band’s youth. Apart from the distinctive delivery of Ms. Shazar, who always had time to deliver her lyrics cleanly enunciated right on the beat with not much in the way of legato phrasing or blue notes.
The latest album was constructed of ten strong songs that bring distinction and accomplishment to the table in equal amounts. They were all memorable with a relaxed vibe that would have been unknown to the younger Slow Children. More than that we can hardly ask for. The big notion now is that there are another seven albums that were either Pal Shazar solo albums from the 1991- 2006 period as well as an album where she co-starred with her partner, Jules Shear as Shear-Shazar. The time I saw them in concert, there was no Slow Children music performed by her; just newer solo material and it was a good show. The only reason why I didn’t buy her then-new CD “The Morning After” was down to my penury at the time. I was lucky to afford the door charge then, but looking back from 2020 there is all of this music beckoning.