Disappointingly staid fifth solo effort from the New Jersey singer.
Mike Diver 2011-02-11
What a difference a decade makes. In March 2001, New Jersey singer-songwriter Pete Yorn released an album that seemed to point the way to bigger and brighter things. Musicforthemorningafter was something of a happy accident: Yorn had written the soundtrack to so-so Jim Carey movie Me, Myself & Irene, and the public demanded more. So he responded, and the results were incredibly well received.
Since then, though: nothing. Not one of Yorn’s recordings has come close to capturing the same magic exhibited on his debut. The reasons why not aren’t clear – the man’s worked with friends in high places, such as R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on second LP Day I Forgot, and his fourth album Back and Fourth was recorded with Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk; he’s also released an album with Scarlett Johansson, 2009’s Break Up, which inevitably attracted the attention of many who’d previously missed his solo sets. This eponymous collection, Yorn’s fifth, is produced by Frank Black. But, still, there’s only disappointment where once so much potential shined brilliantly from this man’s work.
The new Springsteen: it’s what Yorn could have been. Perhaps he still can be, if he wants. But if his intention is to derail remaining prospects completely, he’s going the right way about it. Never anything but a staid affair, this album sounds tired both lyrically and instrumentally. Though recorded in just five days, it somehow manages to sound as if tracks were pored over until all perspective was lost, quality control becoming a notion utterly alien to the individuals in the studio. Where a critic would usually select a few highlights, all one can do with this is try not to refer to its dankest depths. Every so often a little fire does flicker forth, coerced no doubt by Black’s presence. But fleeting instances of passion, of warmth and inspiration, are just that: gone, almost in an instant, lost amongst so much… well, on any other album it’d be called filler, but when your filler runs to 11-and-a-half tracks…
To the Yorn faithful this set will probably seem like a step in the right direction. The problem is that, to everyone else, that direction is circular. He’s going nowhere, then, round and round the same stories, and doesn’t seem too bothered about who he’s taking – or not taking – with him. More Pete Yawn, then (sorry).