Explorative but without losing sight of key strengths.
Nick Barraclough 2009-09-24
Long-anticipated following the critical success of previous long-player Roots and Crowns in 2006, Chicago’s Califone have rightly taken their time to deliver their sixth album. Unhurried and assured, All My Friends… embraces a greater variety of styles than before, while never losing sight of their strengths during such explorations.
While the indie-rock influence of the band’s hometown is evident, so too are echoes from much further west – at times this record is reminiscent of Roger McGuinn or Crosby, Stills and Nash, if said artists were still relative young guns, and if they kept off the weed. Because Califone, you see, have their wits together. And despite occasional bows to contrivance, there are grooves in abundance, repetition utilised to drive points home. Ape-Like is virtually a work song, and Benuel, with a bit of spit and polish, could almost make it onto the Grand Ole Opry. Well, maybe that’s stretching it, but there is much to connect with.
All My Friends… features a wonderful array of instrumentation: bottleneck guitar, frailed and picked banjo, fiddle, as well as the more esoteric Optigan and Stylophone which, as the album moves on, sit increasingly comfortably on the occasionally unnerving and always unpredictable percussion and effects.
Tim Rutili, who sings and plays guitar and keyboards, has put together a feature-length film also titled All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, which apparently will dovetail with the album. It was shot in an old house in Indiana in the spring of 2009 and stars Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, May, Carrie). It’s going to be shown at film festivals in 2010 and the band will perform the soundtrack in support. It all sounds a bit ambitious, but it’s clear that this is a band that acknowledges few limitations.
Which is as it should be – but keep writing great songs boys, and don’t be sidetracked into having too much fun with the toys.