4 out of 5
Label: Razor & Tie
Produced by: Tucker Martine
For whatever reason – likely a misread of a review – prior to actually listening to The Sword, I had assumed them to be an instrumental act. When I finally got around to listening to them, I was surprised at the prevalence of singing, but soon got on the same page with it: the slightly folk-ized, stoner rock variation was much to my tastes. True, it was a sound with exceptions – the lyrics fall into the kind of general fantasy-world stuff that does nothing for me; the group leans heavily on somewhat repetitive song structures and a monotone sensibility that means songs hit and peak and then just sorta hang out there – but one where those same exceptions have exceptions (the fantasy lyrics are delivered succinctly; the production generally serves that repetitiveness well) and thus equate to several albums worth of constantly rocking, hum-worthy anthems. And Used Future follows suit, or at least it follows the more tailored countryfied rock of the past couple discs.
The Prelude to the album works; the Reprise at its conclusion not so much. That kind of “it worked once…” struggle pops up in the disc’s overuse of instrumentals – which is the irony that had me thinking of my original preconception of the group – but The Sword admittedly commits to these tracks just as much as they do the full-on songs, so while we may be robbed of an unbroken jag of singable choruses, the majority of the disc is absolutely an unbroken jag of gutsy, toe-tapping riffs, given a 70s reverb wash by producer Tucker Martine. Both longer form – Sea of Green – and shorter – Book of Thoth – tracks make their mark, and the disc’s forty minutes pretty much fly by on an enjoyable wave of singles.