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Irving - Good Morning Beautiful

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Artist: Irving

Album: Good Morning Beautiful

Label: Eenie Meenie

Review date: Sep. 12, 2002

Finding Oneself Can Be Hard Sometimes

Judging by the favorite bands and albums listed in the promotional materials that accompany Good Morning Beautiful, it’s safe to say that the members of California’s Irving wear their influences on their sleeves. Three of them cite Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea; elsewhere they give much mention to Belle and Sebastian, the Magnetic Fields, the Velvet Underground, and, of course, the Beatles. Predictably, borrowed elements of each of these predecessors’ sounds are abound on Good Morning Beautiful. Some do so more obviously and less consistently than others, but every single artist mentioned, from Grandaddy to Neil Young, is represented somewhere in generally concrete terms. Whether the band Irving itself makes nearly as much of an appearance is debatable.

As might be expected, Good Morning Beautiful comes across as more of a patchwork than anything else. No evidence of slick professionalism or focused production pops up throughout its forty-one minutes, much less any unifying approach or even sound style. The opening “Crumbling Mountain Tops” sounds like a lo-fi lullaby sung from the middle of a marsh, proceeding to “Eyes Adjust To Light,” a droning, informal piece to make the likes of Stephen Merritt proud, and then to the Kinks-sy “L-O-V-E,” and so on. There are too many conflicting, if appealing sounds to aptly sum up Irving – there are certainly plenty of Elephant 6-appropriate themes and motifs, especially on the Beulah-esque “A Very Frivolous Distribution of Sundries,” but consider also the Belle and Sebastian jingle of “Heading North” and the sublimely Grandaddy closing track “Faster Than Steam.” The songs on Good Morning spin out in diverse directions, but one will ultimately find it difficult to pinpoint a sound that is uniquely Irving’s, and if any connection ties the record together it’s not an especially novel one.

Irving’s biographical information stresses that all five members are singers and songwriters, that this is the first band for all of them, and that subordinating their individual leanings was the first step in what would be a process of integrating many different voices into one band. This comes to serve almost as an explanation of the songs, which each follow the example of someone’s harped-on influences but collectively sound more like an imprecise indie rock compilation than the output of a single group. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on what is at stake: as for Irving’s appeal, any listener will surely find at least a few good moments in Good Morning’s fuzzy tapestries of folk rock. As for Irving’s identity, the group needs to establish something that is their own before they themselves can be listed years later, between a band’s likes and dislikes.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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