Okkervil River

The Stand Ins | Jagjaguwar
By RICHARD BECK  |  September 2, 2008
1.5 1.5 Stars
On “Singer Songwriter,” the third track on Okkervil River’s new LP, Will Sheff sings, “I heard cuts by the Kinks on your speakers/I saw Poe and Artaud on your shelves. . . . You’ve got taste/What a waste that that’s all that you have.” Zing, I suppose. The real problem with taste here is that Sheff doesn’t have any. This record is a sequel to 2007’s The Stage Names, and it shares its predecessor’s concerns: artifice, authenticity, and above all, the sniveling insincerity of hazy-eyed media zombies. So Sheff, equipped with a ragged, weepy voice, fights back with admirable passion but poor intelligence. A la-la-la chorus goes unendingly on; a botched acoustic guitar intro lurches by; the usual bevy of Sufjan-esque mandolins, horns, and Wurlitzers rounds out the band’s straight-ahead, slightly spare rock 4/4, Sheff singing all the while like a man bent on saving me from myself. I’m unpersuaded. Yeah, I agree that some of the culture’s more ironical tendencies merit opposition, but you’ve got to let the brain help the heart out sometimes.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Okkervil River, Will Sheff, STAND INS
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