Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pete Yorn - Pete Yorn

Pete Yorn

Pete Yorn
Vagrant Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

I think I’ve never been in love,” Pete Yorn confesses on ‘Stronger Than’, but it’s a sentiment his fans have long taken for granted. Over his previous four non-Johansson-ized LPs, Yorn's songbook has largely spoken of love in the pretense of its demise - of its shrugging, incapable squandering. And maybe that’s why 2009’s Back and Fourth soured many fans; its full-length scope of being a lonely dude, with shiny but lethargic production by Mike Mogis, lacked the thick-skinned tempos that once gave Yorn’s emptiness some nomadic purpose.

That punch has thankfully been restored on Pete Yorn, a rag-tag assemblage of eleven cuts Yorn and Frank Black (yes, of the Pixies) punched out over five days in Nowhere, Midwest America. From the searing guitar and pounding, no-frills drums of ‘Precious Stone’, Black’s raw production evokes the immediacy of hearing a garage-band in the flesh; the primitive relationship between guitar and percussion standing naked at the forefront of the mix. And Yorn, despite a nagging fever that permeated the majority of recording, revels in the grain of his fractured voice-box, embracing tuneless emoting on the cathartic crest of ‘Sans Fear’ and seething throughout ‘Paradise Cove I’.

To a Yorn-uninformed listener, this self-titled affair might sound like a 90s alt-rock retread – and, in the case of the power-chord driven ‘Always’, it sadly is – but Pete’s taking chances here. Shedding the thick production that protected him for bare-boned testosterone didn’t sound like a winning strategy for the songwriter who made his name with a layered, folky approach, but Yorn’s vocal risks empower some otherwise flimsy tracks (‘Badman’) into a fist-pumping good time. Yorn may not have learned a whole lot about love, but he’s ready to fight for it again. And Pete Yorn is a good fight, indeed.

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