December 08, 2003

Trembling Blue Stars "A Certain Evening Light"

Though I may be loathe to admit it, I really like Trembling Blue Stars. Sure, I don't really care for an album's worth of overwhelming pathos and heartbreak, and part of me wants to give him a hug, shake him by the shoulders and tell him, 'move on with your life, please,' but when it comes to singles, man, Bob Wratten cannot be beat. His songs--his sad, downcast, heartbreakingly moving songs--are best taken in small does, lest you drown on his tears and bitterness, and as such, the single format serves him well.

A Certain Evening Light collects all of his non-album singles and B-sides from the past six years. On one hand, it's a very handy little collection. He's released seven singles/EP's over the years, all of which contained at least three exclusive tracks. As such, the lost' songs have certainly added up, and considering the fact that he never sold his B-sides short--almost all of these songs could easily be singles on their own. Heck, I even wonder if Wratten spends as much time on these little releases as he does on his regular albums. (It wouldn't surprise me, really.)

The only problem, though, is the obvious one. While an EP of three or four sad songs might be an excellent format for Wratten, an album of eighteen songs could easily become a bit tedious to listen to--especially if you're feeling kind of good about life right now. Yes, it's a bit much to sit through, but you should already know that a Trembling Blue Stars listen is not going to be an emotionless journey, and at times the album does get a little heavy. To his credit, A Certain Evening Light is not a chronological release; this serves the songs quite well, as it allows the different ideas and styles to mix together.

Though it may be a bit tedious, several songs on A Certain Fading Light do stand out. "Doo-Wop Music," originally a vinyl-only release on gorgeous blue vinyl, is a wonderful love song, mixing a reggae beat with a doo-wop beat, topped with Wratten's melancholy vocals and a scratchy-vinyl sample appearing throughout the song. Heck, until now I thought that scratching was on my single! I am also fond of the mellow club beat of "The Rainbow," sung beautifully by Anne Mari (the woman who inspired his songs of pain!), the country-rock vibe of "Though I Still Want To Fall Into Your Arms," which is actually a nice little country diversion. The harder rock of "A Slender Wrist" is also quite aces, too. I'm most fond of the Abbaesque downcast-yet-hopeful dance beat of "It's Easier To Smile," an ode to actually giving into overwhelming feelings of happiness--and it's also one of Trembling Blue Stars' newest (possibly last??) songs.

While the future of Trembling Blue Stars might be up in the air (the band's been dismissed, Trembling Blue Stars left Shinkansen--ending Wratten's relationship with his Sarah reputation), A Certain Evening Light is a nice, albeit flawed, little collection of sad pop songs. It's what he does best, and there are some really great songs to be found here. My advice? Don't be foolish and try to take it on all at once. Your heart might not take it.

--Joseph Kyle

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