October 06, 2004

Giant Sand Is All Over...The Map

Howe Gelb deserves a special reward for "most apt album title," as Giant Sand Is All Over...The Map applies to this record on three levels. First, it's a subtle joke about the state of Giant Sand, as this is the first album without esteemed members Joey Burns and John Convertino (better known as Calexico), both long considered permanant members. Second, it refers to the fact that this album was recorded in various places around the globe. The title also refers to the album's heavily diverse nature.

If you were worried that Giant Sand would lose something with the departure of the rhythm section, your fears were not well grounded. Sure, they're missed, but Gelb's enlisted a very fine backing band, and they fill in quite well. Heck, it only takes one listen to realize that Giant Sand won't suffer simply because of a change in the lineup. He's also enlisted some friends and family to help him out, including Scout Niblett (on "Remote"), Vic Chestnut (on "A Classico Reprise"), Eric Drew Feldman (on "Hood (View from a Heidelberg Hotel)") and John Parish (PJ Harvey) as producer and as a member of the band. So the loss of two key members might be sad for the hardcore, but it doesn't affect the music at all.

As you would expect, the music is indeed all over the place. What you'll find on here is a man and a band that refuses to define its sound. You'll find music that's lovely, quirky country ("Fool"), jazzy, desert-fried soundtrack-style numbers ("Napoli"), balls-out rock numbers ("Remote"), French ballads ("Les Forcats Innocents") and something that runs between all of these style (everything else). My personal favorite--and perhaps one of my favorite musical moments of 2004--is "Anarchistic Bolshevistic Cowboy Bundle." The song starts out quietly enough, and then it shifts into a thrashed-out version of "Anarchy In The UK," sung by his daugher (a kid of undetermined age), and the song then launches into a humorous country ballad, with Gelb warning the listeners "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Tolstoys," and then it launches into the quiet jazz of album closer "Ploy." You'll laugh your ass off at the sheer cheek--and genius--of it all.

All over the map? Definitely. All over? By the sound of it, not hardly! Giant Sand Is All Over...The Map is a fun, satisfying musical adventure--and a return to form, if you ask me--of one of indie-rock's greatest (and sadly underappreciated) musical masterminds. Howe Gelb has proven that life goes on, and he's clearly shown that Giant Sand will ultimately prevail, in spite of lineup and location changes.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.giantsand.com
Label Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com

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