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Lone Pigeon - Concubine Rice

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Artist: Lone Pigeon

Album: Concubine Rice

Label: Domino

Review date: Jul. 22, 2002

Known to many as the opening band for Radiohead, the Beta Band have existed as a Britpop metronome: creating beautiful, orchestrated singles only to swing back and release mysterious albums filled with cacophonous, Be Here Now epics that choose to showcase their recent eclectic instrument acquisitions rather than songwriting prowess. They defy classification; they also defy any listener’s attempt to forge a lasting connection to the band. For me, their music has never lived up to their album covers; spacious and dreamy vistas (see their magnificent self titled EP) with only the occasional track capturing the glorious psychedelic world they aspire to.

Lone Pigeon, the side/solo project from Beta founder Gordon Anderson replaces the rest of the Beta Band with a Casio. Momus he is not. Or Wesley Willis for that matter. Rather, Concubine Rice captures exactly what one would expect from a Beta Band b-side— Anderson's achingly beautiful voice minus any attempts at production or fully realized musical backing. The genres change more often than the tracks do, each conceptualized with tongue in cheek and seemingly recorded with whatever instruments happen to be left in the studio next door.

Perhaps I’m being too critical—the album is light and playful, yet this airy confidence can be a double edge sword. There is a wonderful dreamy ambience to the work. Anderson can be a great songwriter—the title track Concubine Rice skips along effortlessly thanks to his dreamy and breathy delivery. Other tracks, however, like “Heaven Come Down,” do not deserve the privilege of being archived for future generations on compact disc. If you’re stoned at a fairly subdued party and someone plays this live on a piano, it’s OK. If you’re at a party and someone plays this on CD, drown them in the East River. Armed with a clunking piano, the song succumbs to its cancer after a minute only to fade back in with bastard cousin riff of “Imagine.” We forgave Oasis when they ripped off Lennon’s signature the first time, here it’s Kevorkian worthy. Structurally, like the rest of the album, “Heaven Come Down” is schizophrenic; incorporating three to four different songs under one title and track Each one of these musical interludes incorporates various styles to mimic fellow UK artists; Arab Strap, The Cure, Nick Drake, and, of course, The Beatles.

The Lennon comparisons don’t end there and the album’s distributors are aware of this. In the album’s promotional material is the admittance of similar sounds of the Fab Four, dismissing this claim by stating that Concubine Rice has a lot more “soul.” What the fuck? The fact is that nearly every song on Concubine Rice sounds similar to the second half of “Abby Road”; short and silly songs that usually bleed into one another before it reaches the two minute mark. Here, they whimper out—lacking any shape and melody, there’s not much this British rockstar can do except wander through the ill-prepared riff and then hit the fade button. The songs are written in a fairly straight forward fashion, and given the chance to expand into a full blown three minute structure, one might remember them. Instead, the songs are written as if someday they will be fully realized, but for now they’re just blueprints. Like when a child is slaughtered, people remark on what a great Outward Bound leader he would’ve been someday. Here, you have an idea what a full-length version of the song could’ve been, and you consider this a mercy killing.

If you’re making druggie music and singing about quirky animals doing quirky things, then the Phish comparisons are inevitable. At least Phish can musically back it up and have fans who will sincerely find joy in their music. Concubine Rice is an album that exists only as a conversation piece for someone who’s trying to impress you with their eclectic CD collection. “You haven’t heard of this? It’s the solo album from the singer of the Beta Band. It’s…crazy.” Then he wipes the cobwebs off of it and places back on the shelf. No doubt, Wesley Willis would not think this whips a snow leopard’s ass.

By Addison MacDonald

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