Two records popped up on my radar in the last two days and I still haven't wrapped my head around what I want to say about the new ARCADE FIRE record, so I pontificate about this oddity instead.
TIRED PONY is a side project of SNOW PATROL front man Gary Lightbody. Lightbody has referred to this as a country record using some heavyweight American musicians to support his musings. What the record does is highlights one of the conundrums facing all singers...namely, that he can't change how he sings. "Dead American Writers", the first single, is exactly like every Snow Patrol song ever written only with a slide guitar. Using Singer/Actress Zooey Deschanel as a duet partner on two songs rekindles his work with Martha Wainwright on earlier records. His songwriting style of stream of conscious lyrics with no chorus is still here as well. One would think that a solo venture would challenge Lightbody to tinker with his sound.
Then there is Peter Buck. Buck has long been one of my favorite guitar players for his way of attacking songs and giving them edge and fire. Even when he takes to the mandolin he does it so distinctly that his signature is all over the songs. His work with the MINUS 5, HINDU LOVE GODS and TUATARA showed that even outside of REM he still remains distinct. Here though he seems replaceable. There is no sight of his imprint on the band's sound. It's as if he was swallowed up in Lightbody's songs and can't find his own place in them. "Pieces" does have echoes of some of the guitar work from later era REM, but elsewhere he could be any guitar player for hire.
Is it a bad album? No. It's a remarkably easy record to listen to, like most Snow Patrol records. "Northwestern Skies", "Dead American Writers" and Get On The Road" are nice pop songs that are catchy. But one wonders what might have been if Lightbody had been more adventurous and Buck a little more prevalent in the songwriting mix.
(mp3) Tired Pony -- Dead American Writers (link removed due to DMCA Complaint)