Thursday, July 7, 2011
Review: The Felice Brothers - Celebration Florida
The Felice Brothers are known for their dark Americana-roots folk music - sounding like Bob Dylan singing about busking on the streets and scoring smack. I've been a fan ever since I heard Frankie's Gun and was pleased to see they released a new album titled Celebration Florida.
To my surprise, this album is a massive shift in sound. With Celebration Florida, the Felice Brothers are trying to capture the sound of the ghetto and the failing American Dream. The core of the music is hardly different than their older material but the added bursts of ghostly children, horns, hip-hop and shout-alongs only end up confusing the message of the song. Electronic effects, including autotune, come and go - stuttering and jerkily - only adding to the chaotic dirge. My first thought was they jumped the shark, but further listening revealed a few gems hidden in the dense mix - the songs Ponzi and Oliver Stone are fairly good as is the lengthy River Jordan.
It's an epic vision - like their own Sgt. Peppers or perhaps a stretching into the realm of Tom Waits - but it's an odd departure from their signature sound. Not all of it works, but I do give them kudos for trying to move beyond their comfortable boundaries. I'm certainly not expecting every group to keep producing the same album over and over, but Celebration Florida misses the mark.