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Vetiver - The Errant Charm

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Artist: Vetiver

Album: The Errant Charm

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jun. 9, 2011

Will the real Vetiver please hold up its hand? There seems to be two on The Errant Charm. One is the road-tested combo that’s been serving up reliable pleasures for the better part of the aughts. And then there’s Andy Cabic, the singer-songwriter-guitarist-keyboardist who happens to perform under the name Vetiver. Cabic plays in that band, but that band doesn’t get a whole lot of space on Vetiver’s fifth album.

Despite early associations with the regrettably named “freak folk” scene (Devendra Banhart was a sorta-member around the time of the first Vetiver album), Vetiver-the-band is a pretty conservative outfit. It’s content to summon sounds of yesteryear — ’70s singer-songwriters on Thing Of The Past; sun-shiny ’60s folk-pop on Tight Knit; 1970-vintage Grateful Dead during one particularly enjoyable concert I attended in 2006 — and render them with unfussy diligence. On record, Vetiver-the-band is tuneful and undemanding, but Otto Hauser’s drumming can always be counted on to keep things moving crisply.

Cabic intentionally did not fall back on that safety net this time out, but put The Errant Charm’s songs together in the studio with producer Thom Monahan. The rest of the group didn’t join in until relatively late in the process, when Californians Cabic and Monahan booked some time in a Hoboken studio and had them lay down the tracks. The results rarely sound like the result of people playing together in a room. The music is awash in programmed beats, plush keyboards, and FX-laden guitars and voices that sound more like Lindsay Buckingham on Ativan than the basic, guitar-oriented sound of earlier Vetiver records.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The first song, “It’s Beyond Me,” and single “Can’t You Tell” percolate with a laid-back effervescence perfectly adapted to be played in the background while you hit the salad bar, buy some shoes, or just sit at home and read through the Sunday paper. Most of us have plenty such moments in our lives, and they need their soundtrack.

Still, it’s a bit startling to hear Vetiver sway to a synthetic samba rhythm, sounding for all the world like The Sea and Cake on “Fog Emotion.” And even more startling to hear Vetiver-the-band make its first appearance six songs in; Hauser finally kicks the robot off the drum stool, a succinct guitar break leads into a bit of bouncy rocking, and Cabic for once sings with energy rather than sweet insubstantiality. “Wonder Why” follows up with a chunky Velvet Underground (circa Loaded) groove; I bet it’ll be a concert highlight.

But that’s about it; the last couple songs float along so mildly that you might not notice when they end. The Errant Charm is by no means a bad album, but it’s not great either; it’s just nice in a way that is too easy to ignore for its own good.

By Bill Meyer

Other Reviews of Vetiver


To Find Me Gone

Thing of the Past

Tight Knit

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

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