Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You - Review

The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You, American Recordings, 2009
After 2007's Introducing... Emotionalism, I drunkenly christened Concord, NC's grunge folkers The Avett Brothers "the new face of American masculinity". While I may be unwilling to go that far again without the aid of copious amounts of Southern Comfort, I maintain that Emotionalism is a monumental achievment in the new Americana movement, which, coupled with the band's legendary live show, went on to boost the profile of one of the hardest working and honest bands out there. Which seemed like a good thing.
And then came Rick Rubin, American Recordings, and their latest release I and Love and You. Stripped down and basic in it's approach, I+L+Y will sound great to the thousands of new ears it'll reach, but will disappoint long time fans for one tragic reason. The Avett Brothers, those hard working, fun loving boys that gave their all on stage and sang about kissing pretty girls and were always grateful just to be here, have become the worst thing imaginable: adults. Not men, mind you. Adults. Penny pinching, career concerned, morally compromised adults. Whereas Emotionalism was a frill filled ramble that careened recklessly through genres and emotions, gnashing and biting at the complications and frustrations of being human, I+L+U limps it's way through ten radio friendly songs that barely scratch the surface, and, in fact, leave no mark at all. But it'll help Starbucks baristas meet chicks, I promise.
It's not that it's a bad album - it's just that it's a sellout, and no serious critic can say otherwise. It has no teeth, no presence, nothing essential to it and I+L+U diminishes their entire body of work. The title track is about how hard it is to tell someone that you love them. Thanks, guys. Couldn't have gleaned that from the last Springsteen album.
Gone is the raw tension between being an honest or dishonest human being, a man or a just some dude that came through on Emotionalism. I+L+U is a band succumbing to the pressures of commercialism, pressures which The Avett's put on themselves, which is the real knife in the back. You can sit here all day and say I'm an asshole for deriding a band for wanting to be successful, and none of it will matter. These guys compromised themselves and we have enough people willing to compromise themselves, not only in rock music, but this world in general. We don't need any more.
If The Avett's want to drag themselves out of obscurity and into Carnegie Hall that's fine with me. I hope this album sells a trillion copies and Rubin makes a lot of money. I hope The Avett's don't have to play shitty festivals in Lawrence anymore, or record beautiful versions of Jessica Mayfield songs in hallways anymore if that's what they want. Good luck and good riddance. I'm off to search for new heroes.

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