Redstart: So Far from Over

Redstart
So Far from Over
Princess Records

 

Discounting dares, bets, and jabs, Redstart could have had only one reason for opening its debut album with "Garbage": intimidation factor. Sure, there's something to be said for separating wheat from chaff early in the process, especially when you plan to drag the listener through the aural equivalent of shattered light bulbs for a good, long while. But that's not the case on the usually toothsome So Far from Over. As it is, the mid-tempo chugger's unforgiving angles and obliquely situated melody simply provide either a pre-pleasure ordeal or an incentive to skip to track two as quickly as possible.

Maybe vocalist and founder Wendy Lewis just wanted to inject a little lemon into the program's honey early on. After all, the singer, songwriter, and frontwoman for departed local favorites Rhea Valentine and Mary Nail didn't cop her 1999 Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for composition by playing it safe. Perhaps the song is a dig at its namesake band. Who knows? Certainly, the rest of the album offers adventure galore minus the hood ornament's inert gristle. "Speechless" reads like its smarter, bolder, more successful sibling, Lewis's diffident coo gliding over Martin Dosh's highly syncopated stick work on the verse, her voice bucking and weaving like a cat in a blowgun attack before it finally erupts into the chorus's commandingly brayed "It can take care of itself." Even the song's incongruously pastoral middle bit fits in, a moment of warmth and tenderness in the midst of epic conflict.

Lewis plays blues-funk grindfest "The Beating"'s heroine like a prairie Polly Jean Harvey: "I can walk away from you/No more pearls before the swine," the anywoman-at-the-end-of-her-tether belts during the song's climax, Jeremy Ylivsaker's creamy psychedelic guitar doubling Happy Apple moonlighter Michael Lewis's swampy bass line in a display of riff-driven solidarity. Molasses-tempo waltz "Red Dust" gently veers off the beaten path mid-journey; the ballad's increasingly intricate rhythmic underpinnings provide an unpredictable bed for Greg Lewis's spectral trumpet yoga. Typically, the band saves So Far from Over's sweetest surprise--an Appalachian postcard-perfect, a capella rendering of the traditional spiritual "Farther Along"--for last. Now, which button does what again?

 
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