Review Summary: How could a man with such a magnificent beard release an album like this?
Obadiah Parker created quite the buzz in acoustic indie back in 2007, when their emotional cover of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ catapulted them directly into the spotlight. Their debut LP was recorded live in its entirety, thus making the crystal clarity of Obadiah Parker Live
deserving of even more accolades. However, the album itself never achieved such acclaim, as most were quick to download the beautiful “Hey Ya’ and then be done with it. That’s a shame, because front man Matt Weddle and his epic beard were absolutely triumphant for the vast majority of that undervalued gem; his powerful but sensitive voice worked flawlessly with his talents on the acoustic guitar and we were left with one of the most soulful indie albums in recent memory. This left fans with high hopes for Obadiah Parker’s first official studio album, The Siren and the Saint
. With years of preparation and a full working knowledge of his strengths, Weddle would finally make his mark, while blowing us all away in the process.
Well that was the plan, anyway.
Whereas Obadiah Parker Live
was full of rhythmic jams, acoustic odes, jazzy horn sections, and observations on love and spirituality, The Siren and the Saint
is concerned primarily with repetitiveness, clichés, and lyrics about sex. And even the sex isn’t the soulful, get-down to the groove type – it is the kind that makes you blush thinking about how embarrassing the lyrics would be for Weddle to hear if only he knew how ridiculous they sounded. But let’s start with the album’s penchant for uniformity, because it is repetition that plagues this album far worse than Matt’s pre-teen, just-discovering-my-male-parts lyrics ever could.
The Siren and the Saint
essentially tries to be a studio version of Obadiah Parker Live
. Acoustically, they sound almost exactly alike – which can be perceived in a couple of ways: it’s either a compliment to Weddle and company’s amazing live talent, or a knock on their new record’s ability to distinguish itself. All would have been fine if The Siren and the Saint
sounded the same and
matched its predecessor’s instrumental and lyrical quality – but instead we are presented with a substantial drop-off in both aspects. ‘Red Handed’, ‘Legend’, ‘Trampoline’, and ‘Change It All’ are all your basic faux soul jams, relying on similar chords and drum patterns to accomplish a “jam session” feel while hoping that Weddle’s voice will take care of the rest. In fact, almost all of the songs follow the same basic rhythm and structure: simple, back-and-forth drumming with quick, off-beat acoustic strumming…and lots of soulful humming. For as much as that last sentence was not intended to rhyme, it actually leads us quite nicely into the album’s other dire fault: the god-awful cheesiness of the lyrics.
The Siren and the Saint
commences with a twenty-five second track simply titled ‘Predule’, in which Weddle snaps his fingers and earnestly sings, “If you could take one moment and listen to my song…you might not forgive me / you might never think me strong / enough to ever keep me / but you might just sing along.” If that absurdly cheesy interlude wasn’t enough to immediately raise a red flag, Obadiah Parker pulls it up to full mast with ‘Red Handed’, in which Weddle sings the first of at least five songs about him having sex with an island girl: “She led me to the bedroom / to stare into the sun / I was too young to know better than what she would become…I feel her in the daylight, I hear her in the sky, I know just where to seize her, to submit between her thighs.” ‘Legend’ consists of the aforementioned clichéd soul jam instrumental patterns, while Weddle tells a nonsensical story about somebody named Johnny…repeating the lines “Johnny was a legend” over and over again in the chorus. ‘Trampoline’ continues the stream of aural diarrhea, as Weddle offers up lines like “In the morning I woke up in your bed / I need to show myself that I’m in control / The only way I can make sure I stay clean / I got to keep myself off your trampoline.” Did he just make a reference comparing sex to bouncing on a trampoline? There’s no need to read too deep into this one folks. The Siren and the Saint
continues in a similar fashion for most of the album, with the stalker-ish ‘The District’, which besides sounding like the title for an NBC prime time crime series, sees Weddle recall specific road names and landmarks on the way to the home of an ex-lover: “Loop 202 to the 101 / Past the avenues to the 51 / Down Power Road, by the liquor store / I don’t got that way no more / Baby, I don’t go that way no more.” Sure Matt, sure…then why do you make a reference a couple of lines later about visiting that exact location? The list of clichéd lyrics, bad ideas, and identical instrumentation present on The Siren and the Saint
goes on and on, but the important thing to remember here is that Matt Weddle is a psychotic stalker who can’t stop singing about putting it up women’s thighs.
Believe it or not, there are a few bright spots amidst all this madness. When Weddle returns to his bread and butter acoustic ballads and doesn’t try to sound funky, soulful, or anything of that nature, it usually pays off in his benefit. ‘Baia da Santa’ and ‘Garden in Bloom’ are prime examples, as Obadiah Parker leaves it up to Weddle’s singing (with the occasional string thrown in for good meaure) to make the music emotional and relatable. It also helps that the lyrics on these songs aren’t embarrassing, but the sheer fact that Weddle doesn’t seem to be trying to prove anything makes the music sound a thousand times more natural. Then there is the exotic ‘Salvador’, which succeeds in a large part due to the inclusion of horns – something that was done frequently in Obadiah Parker Live
but more or less thrown by the wayside in The Siren and the Saint
. Combined with Weddle’s relaxed vocals and stripped-down acoustic picking, ‘Salvador’ reminds listeners what made Obadiah Parker so good to begin with. This is a band that was founded on the principle of simplicity, and not surprisingly, they are at their best when they return to that formula here.
Unfortunately, these are but mere bright spots in an otherwise completely clouded sky. There just simply isn’t much to get excited about on this album, as even the tolerable songs aren’t as memorable as the worst that Obadiah Parker Live
had to offer. The terrible lyrics and unvaried styles weight this album down, and despite Matt Weddle’s sensational voice, it is hard to take anything on The Siren and the Saint
seriously. This is a band that is still overflowing with talent and potential, they just need to find their way back to whatever inspired their unique, wholesome sounding foundation. Enough of the silliness, Obadiah Parker. It’s time to show us what you’ve really got.