posted on May 10, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'Posthumous Success' by Tom Brosseau
Review Snapshot: The sound of a singer-songer in creative transition and perhaps finding his true voice. This album’s folk foundations are weak when exposed to attentive listening, but Brosseau’s other aspect is an alt-rock swagger that infuses this record with wit and personality.
The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10
The self-deprecating title of Tom Brosseau’s third album suggests that this North Dakota native may be of that rare species: a male acoustic singer-songer with a sense of humour.
And for the most part this is true. ‘Posthumous Success’ is a likeable sort of record that brings a refreshingly alternative range of influences to bear on the familiar old folk-pop format. ‘Big Time’, with its wry declaration of wannabe ambition, shudders with a treated electric riff that would sound at home on stage at the Enormodome. There’s a triumphant lo-fi sneer to ‘You Don’t Know My Friends’ which is picked up again in a veritable Lou Reed tribute called ‘Drumroll’. That VU sound suits Brosseau and he wears it like he owns it.
Strangely enough, though, he’s less convincing whenever he chooses to emphasise the folk style that probably inspired these songs at the writing stage. Brosseau’s thin, vibrato-drenched voice just isn’t robust enough to carry the weight of sincere balladry. On something self-consciously rootsy like ‘Wishbone Medallion’ he sounds like a college boy pretending to be a gnarled old-time bluesman by putting on a fake moustache and his granddad’s hat. ‘Favourite Colour Blue’ (in two versions that top and tail this album) and ‘Been True’ sound whiny. And ‘Axe & Stump’ is the sort of Ritter-esque laboured lovelorn sincerity best left in the bedsit.
So, to recap: sometimes Brosseau plays and sings with the indie swagger and dry cynicism of a young man, which is where this record fairly buzzes with attitude and personality. Other times he tugs the forelock to traditional folk and blues, and then it all sounds flat and faintly contrived.
Given these two aspects of this album, it’s no surprise to learn that half the songs were recorded in upstate New York and the other half in Portland, Oregon. Whichever of those two locations got Brosseau into his Velvets frame of mind, there he should stay for 100% of his next record.