Sturgill Simpson
Sound and Fury


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
September 27th, 2019 | 99 replies


Release Date: 09/27/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Rock, riffs, and rage.

It’s rare for a musician to first find success in his late thirties, but that’s exactly what happened to Sturgill Simpson. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is what truly catapulted him into the limelight, and deservedly so; the semi-concept album revolving around the birth of his son was as musically captivating and adventurous as it was emotionally endearing. Although that record espoused an artful blend of country and good old fashioned rock n’ roll – especially the momentous closer ‘Call to Arms’ – we find Sound & Fury relying less on those kinds of elaborate song structures and instead opting for a straightforward blues/psych-rock approach. On almost all of the tracks, Simpson’s vocals are layered – echoing with a studio makeover that allows his voice to sound ten times larger. Thus, the record has abandoned a great deal of the earthy, organic elements that made Sailor’s Guide feel like a transcontinental expedition. However, the payoff is both satisfying and immediate. Sound & Fury is a no-frills charge ahead that embodies the album’s namesake: a whole lot of rock, riffs, and rage. It may not be the life-changer that Sailor’s Guide was, with the record’s marketable simplicity and sleek sheen casting some doubt upon its long-term appeal, but for what it lacks in genuine emotion it makes up for with attitude and sheer grit.

While most of Sound & Fury feels like the best possible amalgamation of ZZ Top and The Black Keys (case-in-point being the lead single ‘Sing Along’, or the wailing, bluesy guitars of ‘A Good Look’) – the album does begin to breathe a little across the mid-to-latter portion. As Simpson ever so slightly loosens his vice-grip on the psychedelic/blues rock jugular, we witness spacey synths on ‘Best Clockmaker on Mars’, a melodic acoustic reprieve by way of ‘All Said and Done’, and a winding seven minute closer in ‘Fastest Horse In Town.’ The latter is particularly impressive, taking the “they just don’t make good rock anymore” stereotype personally whilst crafting an absolute fire breather that culminates in what is quite possibly Simpson’s most technically impressive guitar solo to date. It’s tracks like this that give Sound & Fury the versatility it needs to avoid being pegged merely as “a rompin’ good time”, because while it definitely is exactly that at times, Simpson’s technical prowess shines through enough to provide an uncrackable foundation upon which to build all these blazing riffs and catchy melodies.

One thing that might get missed by the casual listener is just how angry Simpson is. Sure, the curveball he throws us by abandoning the country music that made him famous – in favor of guns-blazin’ rock - isn’t the subtlest hint of discontent, but there’s cynicism woven into nearly every decision made here. A lot has also been written about his dissatisfaction with the state of the music industry, and his disdain for the fame brought on by his recent success, so perhaps everything going on in the world – as well as with him personally – just collided like a perfect storm of bitterness and sarcasm. On ‘Make Art Not Friends’, he sounds the alarm of pessimism: “Looking out the window at a world on fire, it's plain to see the end is near.” Even the album’s opening passage – in the otherwise instrumental ‘Ronin’ – he cycles through radio stations, all of which are condemning society from various angles: “Ladies and gentleman, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that supports a conspiracy where the glob—… / The problem with this country is, is consumption, we consume too much.” As the passage reaches its conclusion, you can hear his foot hitting the gas harder and harder, the engine revving as if to mirror his frustration. I think that’s an emotion we can all relate to right now – we’re inundated with politics that we’re sick and tired of hearing about, but that likewise still needs to be addressed. And despite our best efforts, our problems only seem to multiply and become more severe. Sound & Fury feels an awful lot like Simpson trying to drown out all the noise – to burn it with fire, even if just for a single moment of goddamn peace.

Critics will invariably cite just how much of a departure Sound & Fury is from Sailor’s Guide – and while they’re not wrong aesthetically, it’s actually quite the logical emotional evolution. On the last album’s curtain call, Simpson’s exasperation had become palpable: “Bull*** on my TV, bull*** on my radio…Hollywood telling me how to be me, the bull***’s got to go.” This album is the sound of that fury reaching a fever pitch, picking up right where ‘Call to Arms’ left off. None of this is as nuanced or beautiful as Sailor’s Guide, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a momentary pardon from the insanity of daily life. That’s as good of a reason as any to get down and dirty with Sound & Fury – Simpson’s most straightforwardly enjoyable offering to date.



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user ratings (106)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (4)
Sound & Fury likely won’t be seen as Sturgill Simpson’s magnum opus, but it’s great to see the...



Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
September 27th 2019


36317 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really good considering that it's essentially just "rock"

I still prefer Sailor's Guide but this isn't nearly the disappointing follow-up that it could have been

Digging: Seahaven - Halo of Hurt

EyesWideShut
September 27th 2019


5381 Comments


Sturgill is that dude.. Think he was listening to a couple Earth albums for this joint

ckssr1
September 27th 2019


258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

About time a new album was released

Kompys2000
September 27th 2019


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh damn, didn't realize this had come out already. Def gonna listen over the weekend

Digging: Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians

DoofDoof
September 27th 2019


8513 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

be interesting how this grows...lots of cheesy '80s influences like Robert Palmer and '80s ZZ Top



hopefully the songs have longevity beyond the initial neck crane

ckssr1
September 27th 2019


258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best Clockmaker on Mars my favourite track so far, a lot different to the last album

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
September 27th 2019


1477 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Summed up my thoughts almost perfectly. Really like the anger and grit and rock . . . But also just love old Sturgill so much. It's conflicting for sure, but this is still great in it's own right

RadioSuicide
September 28th 2019


1409 Comments


first 2 tracks are saucy

StrizzMatik
September 28th 2019


3970 Comments


His last album was killer and unique for a modern country record, to hear that he's completely abandoned it for riffs and blues rock has got me interested

Digging: HORSE the band - Your Fault

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 28th 2019


36317 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, it's a bit of an adjustment but he's just as good at furiously jamming out as he is crafting eloquent country-rockers. Personally I prefer his old style, but this is nothing short of a successful experiment.

Clumseee
September 28th 2019


1662 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Make Art Not Friends is a really special tune.

Pho3nix
September 28th 2019


980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Now that's a cool fuckin' album cover I must say.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2019


26126 Comments


loving this

Digging: Tired Lion - Breakfast for Pathetics

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2019


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

so pumped for this

BigBlob
September 28th 2019


5586 Comments


this has me interested...

Kompys2000
September 28th 2019


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Holy shit the visual album for this on Netflix is actually super bangin

deathschool
September 28th 2019


26752 Comments


Is this a step up from the last album?

Digging: William Basinski - Lamentations

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 28th 2019


36317 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More of a step sideways than anything

deathschool
September 28th 2019


26752 Comments


Sidestepping the issue.

greencorn5
September 29th 2019


369 Comments


was this written first, then the movie, or both at the same time or what?



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