Silver Lining Import
Soul Asylum's ninth full-length album, is every bit as quirky and off-centered cut-to-the-bone rock as their hardcore fans have come to expect, an indication that the Minneapolis-bred band has lost none of its edge. And why should they? The new Soul Asylum songs--"Crazy Mixed Up World," "Standing Water," "Success Is Not So Sweet," "All Is Well," "Good For You," "Lately," "Oxygen," and the lead single "Stand Up And Be Strong"--capture the band at its best: swinging, soothing, and rocking.
"I'm really proud of this record," said Dan Murphy. "It's a guitar record and it was really fun to record. It will always remind me of Karl when I listen to it. He was really sick, but still pulled through and finished it in Soul Asylum fashion."
"It makes me think of Karl," agreed Dave Pirner. "It was long overdue to record exclusively in Minneapolis because we hadn't done so in 15 years and the natural surroundings of home was something we needed. We feel extra proud of it because we did it on our own."
"It's funny," Dave Pirner ponders in "Success Is Not So Sweet," one of a dozen songs on Soul Asylum's first album since 1998, "how the players can't survive the game." Pirner has obviously come to realize that with accomplishment comes consequence, but with Soul Asylum, it also has brought resilience. After rising from barstool misfits to international pop stars in the early '90s, the band was ostensibly shot out of the sky. Two subsequent records failed to live up to the million-seller Grave Dancer's Union. Pirner's New Orleans home got caught in the middle of Hurricane Katrina. And founding member Karl Mueller lost his battle with cancer. Yet here they are with album number nine, sporting a trace more big league sparkle, but with the frayed cleverness and rock-solid musicianship that their fans know best. Pirner's melody-rich musings "Stand Up and Be Strong," "Lately," and "Bus Named Desire" allow ample elbow room for guitarist Dan Murphy, and his bittersweet ballads hearken back to gold records and runaway trains. Sure, success may come with a price. But it can also have a silver lining. --Scott Holter
All things good about Soul Asylum shine through on this CD...but best of all, Dave Pirner brought some great songs to the table. The past decade has seen Soul Asylum migrating more and more towards melodic rock, which one might think would have helped them survive the post-grunge/alternative era. It is a shame they have become the Rodney Dangerfields of rock.
Age has done little to change Dave's characteristic voice, and well-placed harmonies abound on most of the tracks here. The first half of the CD is nearly flawless, with more emphasis on upbeat stuff than the last Soul Asylum effort, the uneven "Candy From A Stranger" (1998). While lyrically trite, "Stand Up and Be Strong" is very addictive and sets the tone for a comeback record. Actually, most of the lyrics on this record are a bit simplistic ("Crazy Mixed Up World"; this is a good thing given that Pirner has an affinity to write some really goofy stuff (e.g., "String of Pearls" from Let Your Dim Light Shine). They explore similar themes from world politics to politics of love, but what really does it for me is the infectious energy in most of tunes this time out.
Best tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12
Bill's Music Forum review
"Stand Up and Be Strong" 9/10: The first single. It's more than a little cliché, but it does have some nice parts.
"Lately" 6/10: Probably the second single. A lighthearted war song.
"Crazy Mixed Up World" 7/10: A slightly better lighthearted war song.
"All Is Well" 6/10: Yet another war song; I think.
"Bus Named Desire" 10/10: The best song on the album. It sounds strangely like R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe."
"Whatcha Need" 7/10: A funny song about other rock bands.
"Standing Water" 4/10: I wish this was the worst song on the album.
"Success Is Not So Sweet" 7/10: This song would be great if it ended sooner.
"Great Exaggerator" 5/10: Another crappy one.
"Oxygen" 9/10: This one builds nicely.
"Good for You" 2/10: This song is awful.
"Slowly Rising" 9/10: Great guitar on this one, but the lyrics need work.
"Fearless Leader" (Bonus Track) 8/10: A pretty good acoustic track. I have the original version, a B-side on the Japanese "Promises Broken." The original has a verse that this version doesn't have, but that's alright.
There's nothing amazing about this album. If you want the best Soul Asylum experience possible, I suggest starting with the recently released "Closer to the Stars: Best of the Twin/Tone Years." You get the best of their early albums, including "Tied to the Tracks," "Closer to the Stars," "Miracle Mile," and "Never Really Been," plus an awesome cover of "Jukebox Hero."