Run Thick In The Night
posted on 11/2010 By:
I've seen U.S. Christmas' name thrown around in various circles in the past, but I've always passed them by because of a long-standing tradition of avoiding anything "Christmas"-related outside the month of December. Of course, I realize the band has zero to do with the actual holiday, but even the simple presence of the word has been enough for me to tune out.
Over-exhausted emphasis on band names aside, it was basically my respect for the man chiefly responsible for thrusting USX under more of a spotlight -- Scott Kelly/Neurosis/Neurot Recordings -- that finally prompted me to shelve my dippy bias and give the ol' boys (and girl) a proper shot. And honestly, I dig the whole notion behind U.S. Christmas: their roots and back-story, and especially the idea of tackling a mish-mash psychedelic bizzaro troupe of Appalachian mountain-folk who play an undefined style of dark stoner music that sounds as if they threw Hawkwind and Neil Young into a blender along with a dusty Western soundtrack and a pile of back-porch bluesmen. On paper it sounds like something I'd expect to soil my breeches over, but as much as it bums me to admit, Run Thick in the Night simply falls short of holding my full attention.
To make matters even more disheartening, I'm convinced that if I heard any one song off this record on a random Neurot sampler, I'd likely buy the album based purely on that single tune's appeal. And that's RTitN in a nutshell for me: interesting for a song or three, but a trial to sit through when facing the whole shootin' match. There just isn't a Dextromethorphan high-ball towering enough to afford me the power to stammer wobbly-kneed through this entire 1.2-hour trek of hallucinogenic molasses. "Wolf on Anareta" is the sole cut amongst thirteen that even comes close to carrying the kind of oomph necessary to rouse folks anchored to the couch in a narcotized stupor. I'd say what this record really needs is a bottomless cup of joe and a giant Farmer's Breakfast Skillet to help pump a little pep and stamina into the formula. Cut me a sampler of the tunes that emphasize the clatter-crashing crescendo, like the 13-minute opener and aforementioned "Wolf on Anareta", and the tunes that push hardest on the Neil Young/Rust Never Sleeps influence, like "Suzerain" and "Maran", and pepper those with the sweetly dark, shorter ditties that spotlight acoustic guitar/violin, like "Fire is Sleeping" and "The Leonids". Songs such as the instrumental "Fonta Flora" and "The Quena", along with "Ephraim in the Stars" and "Deep Green" are just too gradual and lifeless, and they end up bogging down an already lengthy record with an extra 25 minutes of filler.
I haven't done much exploring to see how well the rest of the world has received Run Thick in the Night, but if it seems like I'm coming across as overly harsh, it's because I feel USX is a couple elements away from being great; disappointment is a harder pill to swallow if the band doesn't actually suck. They don't necessarily have to splice in a mountain jig and boot-stomp into my heart with a Roscoe Holcomb whirl, but I would like SOMEthing else to grab onto. Hell, there's seven people working hard in this band, shouldn't I be paying attention from start to finish? I guess I'll just enjoy it one or two songs at a time.
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