Review Summary: Pete Yorn's eponymous album is a rock album. Who'd have thought?
Releasing three albums in two years - one with Scarlett Johansson, no less - paints a picture of more than merely a busy schedule. It implies some sort of panic, a creative frenzy triggered by something in the space between inspiration and desperation, and sometimes, those two can feel and look so similar that it's never really clear until hindsight arrives which side of the coin was facing up. So to self-title the latter of those records - albeit the one you started writing first
- is a bold move, and the towering initials on Pete Yorn
's cover only serve to seal the deal. Welcome, in short, to what Pete Yorn considers to be Pete Yorn
: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
Anyone that was charmed by Yorn's debut musicforthemorningafter
or relaxed by Break-Up
last year will be surprised to hear that 2010 sees Yorn team up with Pixies frontman Frank Black, and that nugget of information might soften the blow of hearing that Pete Yorn
is most definitely a rock album with little in the way of apology. With this New Jersey-born singer-songwriter it's always been a case of consistency and presentation and finally on his eponymous effort he sounds entirely comfortable in his own surroundings; the forced fit of restraint lifted by Black's production, he allows his words to run both on paper and through the microphone, resulting in a much more liberated tone and consequently a more assertive delivery.
Obviously there's no point at which Yorn breaks out into harsh screams or lays down any energetic powerchords but the way opener Precious Stone
crashes midway through would seem well out of place on any other Pete Yorn record and would probably feel awkward here if it weren't for the emulation of that sort of feat numerous times throughout the album. There are tempo shifts as Yorn moves into unexpectedly 'heavy' choruses and genuinely momentous tracks on this album, and though 'heavy' only really means amped up electric guitars and fast riffs a-la Thermals in certain corners, it's brilliant to see Yorn rock out where he's always been tempted to adorn everything with subtle pianos and glockenspiels and all of that nonsense
. He slows it down, too, on a couple of late-album tracks, a tender cover of Gram Parsons' 'Wheels' closing the album and showcasing the quieter side of Yorn very well.
You would not normally expect to get three paragraphs into anything written about Pete Yorn without having heard how talented a lyricist he is, but it's simply testament to the musical quality of this record that it's happened. In any case, he's the sort of man who can make a song about velcro shoes sound incredibly important by building tangents off random images and on Pete Yorn
he's also so much braver than before, repeating lines which have the potential to sound a bit clunky with a certainty which pulls them off. Like the music, for the most part the words Yorn conveys are somehow more direct, but still edged with that country-ish drawl and poetic grit which made Nightcrawler
How much of Pete Yorn
's different feel is down to Frank Black and how much of it is to be put down to Yorn's pure aesthetic is something that probably only two men really know, but the end result is the same whoever's stamp of authority is on it; a dynamic and thoroughly intriguing rock
album which does far more than hold the attention and is, truth be told, a genuinely surprising release given the circumstances. Granted, it's nothing groundbreaking, and Yorn still doesn't really sound like anybody other than people we've heard before, but leaving that aside and focussing on the songs, Pete Yorn
is an excellent album, for better rather than worse, in sickness rather than health, and certainly born from inspiration rather than desperation.