All That Glitters

Black Gold, a jumbled mess of a greatest-hits collection, reveals the contradictions at the core of Soul Asylum

Today it may seem as if the state of Soul Asylum is remarkably similar to what it was exactly a decade ago, with no record contract and Pirner feverishly laying the groundwork for the band's next stylistic pivot. An optimist might even say that hints of the group's future direction can be gleaned from an outtake of the title track from SA's last record, 1998's Candy From a Stranger, that appears here. The tune flirts with silky R&B in the manner of Curtis Mayfield, adds some Clapton-like blues-rock flourishes, and sounds unlike anything the band has ever done.

Collective soul: The members of Soul Asylum
Collective soul: The members of Soul Asylum

Pirner's recent bent toward R&B, however, has been developed down in New Orleans without the other band members, and will likely result in a solo project. Although Pirner recently told the Star Tribune that he expects another Soul Asylum album to follow this endeavor, precious few rock bands have regained their vintage form once individual creative avenues have been pursued. Even if the band maintains its current lineup and occasionally unleashes one of its trademark sweat-fests at First Avenue, it's probable that Soul Asylum as a thriving entity, the one many of us have known and respected, is gone.

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