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The Skygreen Leopards - Jehovah Surrender

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Artist: The Skygreen Leopards

Album: Jehovah Surrender

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Nov. 7, 2005

"Our pal David X gave us free folk, a righteous attempt to reclaim the long-genrefied saw of Folk (capital F, definition frozen into button-down acoustic mediocrity by sixties ad-men) as a signpost to point to Mr. Corsano as well as to Valentine / Elder. This seeps through the pages of The Wire and down to syndicated weekly purgatory and is now bastardized as ‘freak folk’, a transparent attempt to gift wrap smiling young faces for fans who think they want the ‘new soundz’ when they’re really looking to fill the empty slots in their iTunes playlists. As for the musicians, new artistes pick up their freshly minted shackles and their gtrs and rebirth themselves ad nauseum as fingerpicking (or song scribbling) avatars."

-Charalambides founder Tom Carter, in his recent fatwa on the Volcanic Tongue website

So relax, kids. It’s almost over. After the bitter Banhart backlash has run its course… after Arthur forgets Davenport’s digits and starts interviewing Anticon acts in a struggle to stay relevant… after June Sprig unceremoniously disappears from the pages of Vice… we’ll be back where we started. In a world where "freak folk" is no longer the hot item. Where grown men don’t dress up in animal costumes unless they’re in a theme park and getting sweet dental coverage. Where a record like Sung Tongs could not and would not be produced outside the state of California.

In the meantime, we’ve got on our desk Jehovah Surrender, the latest EP from Skygreen Leopards. This band features Glenn Donaldson, he of the much-storied Jeweled Antler collective, over which Sprig fawned in her debut column. These guys spend a lot of time in the woods, apparently, and when they get back to the studio, they make liberal use of field recordings. Some of the stuff by Stephen R. Smith, another affiliate, brings in a lot of cool Eastern-type shit and actually seems possessed of balls, a heart and a brain. None of that changes the fact that Jehovah Surrender, while not loathsome in the cynical manner of, say, the new Liz Phair stuff, sounds like bad Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s not Donaldson’s fault that he’s getting all this attention, but that doesn’t mean he deserves it.

It’s almost pop, but not quite. It’s sloppy. It’s out of tune. It’s not "good." The soloing guitar on the title track flails about and fails to snarl, which makes one wonder why it’s there. "Apparition of Suns" just fucking begs for a wah-wah. The whole thing sounds like a rehearsal. It wants to be spiritual so bad, it inspires the same mix of guilt and revulsion as anything else that tries too hard. It’s ambitious but lazy. A sense of humor, a sense of fun, a real spiritual fixation, or a combination of the above (the saving grace of Wooden Wand) could’ve bailed it out, but nothing doing there, either.

The kids will see through this. They may get fooled again, but not today. (Tomorrow, maybe.) Soon enough, this biz will return to the hands of those who actually like it. New Soundz will be sought elsewhere. And again it begins, and we all know how it ends…

Nice knowing you, "freak-folk." I wish this EP had been better.

By Emerson Dameron

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Love & Life in Sparrow's Meadow

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