Peter and the Wolf

Lightness

(Junket Boy; 2006)

By Alan Baban | 13 January 2008

So Modest Mouse busted my ears, and I just realised that stain on my wall isn’t mango juice or a cracked egg. I’m in no mood to roll out the clichés. Besides, Boogz already did that for me: “Warm, lo-fi folk,” he types. And, sure, Peter and the Wolf don’t get any gold stars for originality, but Lightness is definitely more distinguished than that designation’s dour implications.

To wit -- this isn’t some goofball feeling his way into sixteen Faithless Street (1995) permutations on a battered up acoustic. Neither is this some newfangled subversion of hissing tape-deck intimacy on tambourine and Ghostface on liturgical duty. Regretfully, Teen Wolf does not beatbox on this record. As a former member of the Animal Collective (before they sold out and became humans) and intermittent CMG affiliate with a barefaced interest in lupine music, T-W, as he’s known round staff squash circles, does, however, moonlight on-and-off as literary confidante and generally cool wolf/man. These waves are his.

T-W: This is, pure and simple, -- warm, lo-fi folk -- it’ll be an easy review -- I mean, do you really need me? You’ve heard records like this before. Think of that warm Winter Walkmen vibe, budgeted down on an acoustic. You can quote me on that, actually.

Alan: But T-W, what does this album tell us about wolves in general?

T-W: Dude, this album’s not really about wolves. Just run the gamut between the generic gambol of cross-referencing with a cotillion’s worth of other fey artistes out of the proverbial closet and the indie-fetish of lending the critical ear to every sullied moment of dead air. Who knows, those crackles may be so much more; maybe he’s invoking Turgeneyev by way of Blue Oyster Cult…

So, the two prosaic angles for this review: association or searchlight gambit hyperbole. And both suck. But it doesn’t necessarily suck to be me right now. I mean, yeah, kick out a jam on how this shit’s been baking cool in that deep-delved Iron and Wine sound, classic, vintage fretboard percussion intimacy. But that isn’t really going to turn people onto Peter and the Wolf. Talk about fucking faint praise. This record rightfully deserves attention right now, because it’s naturally brave, prickled with all sorts of humanity, yet never letting it smother the material in self-knowing, know-it-all, emotional manipulation. It’s mellow, but not in some lounged-out, lah-di-dah hippie necropolis -- the songs jog with the same, sharp melodic graft as Bejar on his Streethawk, eschewing the city for a warm room and window full of ice, a memory redolent of snug nostalgia.

“The Owl” lilts along in delightful rhapsodies of strung-out plucks, an elegy of boundless faith and immortality (“Wait a coupla days you know I will / Ten thousand years / I’ll be there still”), and, to be sure, the oohs and aahs that swoop down like rushing wind through the bones of these tracks is gently moving. But the doe-rhythm plucks forsake the forward-thinking vibe that could have lent the material more substance. As it is, the flesh is not so much allusive as invisible: the record feels, and sounds, complete, whole. Certainly this is artistic cohesion at its apex. But this is no statement, nor does it really proffer any promises of the such, boxed and sealed all too readily into brand constraints -- “warm, lo-fi folk.” Sure, it’s more than that. I mean, it’s chock-full of good songs, and is a comfortable, and comforting listen. It sounds good, but reads like silence.