Muffins, The - Bandwidth

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: Rune 161
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:36:00

It's true. What The Muffins' latest press release says about reformed bands is completely true. You take a bunch of attention-starved musicians, or actually starving musicians for that matter, put into their minds the idea that they can still sell some records, and they'll be out there in no time trying to relive past glories even if they're not really into the music itself anymore. It also says that The Muffins are back because its members believe they still have something to offer to the world; not because they're a bunch of old geezers who want to make an extra buck by squeezing their fans out of some hard-earned cash. And believe it or not, this band tells no tales, the guys still have some fuel left for this good old sphere we live on. What the press release won't tell you, however, is that Bandwidth is one hell of a comeback. No joke. The members of The Muffins are back like they really mean it.

Not that it's immediately apparent though, because the record seems a nostalgia trip more than anything on first listen, and the first few times that the silvery disc makes thousands of revolutions in one's player don't quite dispel that illusion. After the entire album finally sinks in, however, and one begins to bite into the zesty cool cat attitude of "Essay R," the way that "Out Of The Boot" goes from an acid trip gone really bad to soothing calmness, or the thankful schizophrenia of "World Maps," the notion that The Muffins is nothing more than yet another unit that is hopelessly stuck in the seventies goes up in a puff of worthless smoke. The music of this band instead hovers in an undefined time continuum, avoiding both the traps of anachronic irrelevancy and of desperate attempts at updating.

It is not only by shunning these inadequacies that The Muffins manage to captivate the listener, however, but rather by the incredibly palatable manner in which their winds are utilized to bring about a number of clever atmospheres. Take the dirty run-down jazz club roar witnessed on "Walking The Duck" and the tense dissonance of "Down From The Sun Tower" for instance, or a moment like "Dear Mona," which sounds almost frivolous instead. There is a de facto sense of general harmony and balance that keeps the record on solid ground, but it is actually the variety of themes and moods that makes Bandwidth so enjoyable in the long run; partly because the listener is set in delicious expectation of one's favorite moments on the album, partly because it is contrast that actually makes the record. In fact, it makes it to the point that one of its most poignant moments comes with the wonderfully sweet "3 Pennies," a keyboard piece that is miles away from its predecessors and could very well bring a joyful tear to the eye with its childlike melancholy.

Fortunately, however, melancholy is something that enthusiasts of The Muffins are hardly going to experience anytime soon. At least not after listening to Bandwidth, which will instead curse them with a lustful craving for the band's next output, or at least let them know that their favorite American musicians are not only back, but as vital and refreshing as ever, if only more mature. To Thomas Frasier Scott, Dave Newhouse, Billy Swann, and Paul Sears: welcome back.

Similar artists: Hatfield and the North, Soft Machine, Caravan, Miles Davis

Walking The Duck (2:53) / World Maps (6:06) / Down From The Sun Tower (1:29) / Impossible John (1:53) / Military Road (3:14) / Dear Mona (3:12) / People In The Snow (5:51) / Essay R (5:53) / Out Of The Boot (7:00) / East Of Diamond (6:43) / Sam's Room (2:25) / 3 Pennies (4:14)

Thomas Frasier Scott - alto and soprano sax, flute, clarinet
Dave Newhouse - piano, organ, baritone and tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute
Billy Swann - Bass, guitar
Paul Sears - drums, guitar

Guest musicians:

Doug Elliot - trombone
Amy Taylor - violin
Amy Cavanaugh - cello
Kristin Snyder - viola

Manna/Mirage (1978)
Air Friction (ltd. ed.) (1979)
185 (1980/1981)
Chronometers (1993)
Open City (1994)
Love Letter, Vol. 1 (2001)
Bandwidth (2002)
Double Negative (2004)
Loveletter #2 (2005)

Genre: Canterbury

Origin US

Added: August 11th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 607
Language: english


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