This post needs to start off with a disclaimer. I am about to write some bad press for one of my favorite bands. I need to get this off my chest and in no way mean to insult the band for what I am about to write. I believe that we are all entitled to our opinion, and music can solicit such subjective opinions and thoughts.
So here’s the deal: Austin’s own, Uncle Lucius (a band I have written about on numerous occasions) is coming out with a new album and they’ve been garnering a lot of excitement for it by the pre-release of, their hit, “Pocket Full of Misery.”
I feel especially attached to this song, as it has been a favorite ever since I first heard and wrote about it when the tune first graced the radio airwaves. It starts in above at 1:48. The stripped away acoustic nature of this initial version puts the most emphasis on Jon Grossman’s accordion and Kevin Galloways’ twang-tastic vocals. These are two aspects of Uncle Lucius’ music that makes the band stand out and remain memorable. (I can’t recall the accordion ever being as successful since this song, in one of my earliest blog posts.)
The next time I heard the song, it was at Mountain Jam, up in New York (see above). Thankfully, I was able to take a video of the song; amped up and with more power and a bass line. This time the song brought it all- electricity, energy, and exuberance. (The three E’s, if you will.)
And then there’s the version of the song that is on their album:
In all honesty, when I first heard this version, I was actually pretty disappointed. I really didn’t think the changes the band made were necessary. It all starts appropriately at the seven second mark where Kevin sings the line, “Seven oh seven…”. This is the very first thing that rubbed me the wrong way, and perhaps the most irksome. Kevin puts way too much emphasis on the “v” sound in the word, “seven,” or rather, the second syllable of the word. In music terms, he’s making the words much too staccato, when in the past he’s never put that kind of emphasis on the words before, and it sounded totally fine then. Just in the first few seconds, I was immediately turned off, but I continued onward…
To analyze the rest of the song, you’ve got a nice intro with the keyboard coming in softly, to build up to a crescendo of the piece from 0:22 to 0:37. But even before you get to the main part of the song, we are introduced to something new: a horn section at the start of that build up at 22 seconds in. For those familiar with Uncle Lucius, the addition of horn players is not actually a new thing to hear. But to my knowledge, the horns have never played such a prominent role in a piece before. I’m a huge fan of a rockin’ horn section, but this time, they just didn’t fit into this song as much as they were used. I feel like the horns were overused to the point where it creates a campy sound, that really just doesn’t add anything productive.
Without sounding too harsh, it really just sounds like the album version is trying much too hard. The keyboard playing once again is a highlight and is a good substitution for the accordion I missed so much in the the previous recordings. But the horns don’t seem to be needed and it is almost like the band is using the horns as a method to show that they can experiment and think out of the box. Sure, that’s a good quality to have, but when the excitement takes away from the heart of the band’s sound, then I’d suggest revisiting the original ideas.
I am still just as excited for the release of Uncle Lucius’ album, “And You Are Me” on August 28th, and part of me is almost glad that I don’t like 100% of what this band puts out. To me, not liking every piece of music they play makes the band more well-rounded and more real. They don’t have to please all of their fans all of the time, and this is a fine example of just that. So while I may be at peace with my discomfort, I also hope the rest of the album isn’t over-done like this song turned out to be.