Pete Yorn: Pete Yorn

RIYL: Son Volt, Sugar, Ryan Adams

I imagine the conversation went something like this.

Pete: (drumming his fingers on the stained bar top) So… Frank… or is it Francis? Black? Anyway… what do you think about producing my next album?

BF: (shakes his head and signals the bartender) I dunno.

Pete: (looks wistfully at his empty glass) Oh, come on. I’m the king of collaboration and we both have indie cred to burn. Why not?

BF: (sets his beer down without drinking, thinks for a second) Okay… but one thing first. (bends over to the battered case lying at his feet, unfastens the lid and lifts out a well loved Strat) First… show me you still know what to do with this.

Pete: (frowning) That’s cold, man. I was emoting.

BF: Yeah… well get over it.

So that is more than a little bit facetious, as this latest Yorn album was supposedly recorded before 2009’s Back & Fourth. And to be fair, Pete Yorn’s affair with adult contemporary/personal catharsis wasn’t a total disappointment (and in concert he and his band totally rocked), but as a studio album, it was a less than exciting departure from a signature sound he’d developed over his amazing original trilogy. Teaming up with ex-Pixie Frank Black, Yorn takes his sound in yet another new direction on his fifth, eponymously-titled album.

Not the most coherent record, Pete Yorn borrows from a variety of stripped down guitar sounds, some roots rock, some alt rock and even some ’90s post-grunge. One listen and you’ll swear that Black’s contemporary, Bob Mould, had a hand in the guitar line for “Velcro Shoes,” and Frank’s current work shapes “Badman” heavily. “The Chase” sounds like a cover of a lost track from Social Distortions 1990 self-titled classic.

Lyrically, Yorn goes with his eclectic, left-field tendencies that made his original music so intriguing. It happens that his version of “Paradise Cove” – clearly the original, prior to what appeared on Back & Fourth – is much more Yorn-like and interesting in this rougher, lo-fi take. Still, it is also clear that releasing this collection of songs (and it really is more a collection of songs than an album) was something of an afterthought, and while engaging, it is not to be understood as a definitive new direction for Yorn. He created an inescapable, unique sound in his original three albums. Perhaps this, along with Back & Fourth and the brilliant duets album Break Up with Scarlett Johansson, will be looked at as a second trilogy in Yorn’s career; a trio of personal experiments that showcases a prolific talent trying to find his next level. Enjoy Pete Yorn for what it is, but after this, let’s see where he’s really going. (Vagrant 2010)

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