Japonize Elephants – 40 Years of Our Family

4 out of 5

Label: TZME Productions

Produced by: Japonize Elephants (?)

It’s not that anything is really missing from the Elephants’ third release, it’s just sorta… too good.  Too listenable, like.

I know, I know, that’s not really fair.  But I think part of the appeal of the initial JE releases is their mystery, their outsider-art stylings.  The Elephants of 40 Years are definite oddballs still, but this is otherwise a solid chunk of folly klezmer music.  It sounds like a band, as opposed to some rabies-infested entity you found living under a rock, playing Pokemon with itself.

The proof is in the first spoonful of pudding: Opener Implied Leprosy swoons through almost seven minutes of time and tone changes with ease, artists masterfully handling their instruments throughout.  And while the Elephants have by no means abandoned their odes to drink or bacon, the approach is still much more musical.  Leprosy gives way to Whiskey Willie, which, silly lyrics aside, is another amazing manipulation of tone.  The mostly instrumental Gordon Sherwood that follows hits the same high bar, even dipping into brief rock chord progressions along the way.

The group still leaves room to get right-out weird, but these moments seem relegated to inbetween tracks, akin to TFUL282’s feller-filler.

For an hour or so this impressive set ticks on, never boring, with amazing harmonies applied to waltzes, or more folk-centric pieces, swirling back around to that JE bop.  It’s… really freaking good.

But again, backhanded compliment, it’s almost too good, too comfortable with its quirk.  It’s missing that raw feeling the previous releases had.

I know, more bands should be so lucky.  And we’re lucky, as listeners, to get to experience it.  Alas, my review stands as testament to my dedication to not feeling like bumping it up to five, even though I may have just sold myself on the album.