07 December 2009

M Ward - Transfiguration of Vincent

M. Ward - Transfiguration of Vincent

This album is good, but not great. While it's similar in most ways to his more recent albums, it lacks the distinct charm and breeziness of Hold Time and Post War. What's immediately apparent on this album, both through the instrumentation and lyrics, is the degree of melancholy with which most of these songs are written. Songs of sorrow, sadness, and heartbreak are all too cliche for the sensitive singer-songwriter type, and without the constant guitar work that's become Ward's M.O., this album as a whole is not something I'd return to regularly with such better albums in his discography.

Not surprisingly, the stand-out tracks are the few upbeat numbers like "Duet for Guitars #3" and "Helicopter". The former is an instrumental John Fahey-esque jam, while the latter is a pretty straightforward folk-rock song with a melody line lifted straight out of Paul Simon's "Graceland". The album also features a horribly depressing version of Bowie's "Let's Dance", which, quite frankly, is a song that's only notable for its staccato guitar and percussion (which Ward does away with completely) and video of two teenage Aboriginals dancing in an outback bar, and then suddenly transferred to a busy Sydney street, being forced to do manual labor. For a video that makes such a strong statement, the song itself does not. And for a song with seemingly very little meaning, it's a strange choice for an acoustic cover whose foundation is the lyrics. On a high note, Ward definitely had his Grand Ole Opry style production down already on this album, which certainly makes this album worth a listen at least once.

Here's a video of the aforementioned "Duet for Guitars #3" (performed solo, as it were), which starts about 2:30 in after some pretty impressive jamming.