Damien Jurado - Visions of Us on the Land

by Jim Cunnar Rating:4 Release Date:2016-03-23

On Visions of Us on the Land, Damian Jurado completes the trilogy which started out with 2012's Maraqopa and continued on 2014's follow-up, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. Making a trilogy is quite an endeavor, both musically and lyrically, Only a handful of artists have tried and succeeded. David Bowie did it with Low, "Heroes", and Lodger. The Cure did it with Pornography, Disintegration, and Bloodflowers. Unfortunately, Damian Jurado is no Bowie or Smith.

Visions... is the culmination of the story of an unnamed protagonist who gets in a car crash, ends up in a commune, and the journey he undertakes after leaving. We are introduced to the characters he comes across on his travels on Brothers and Sisters, each with the personal title of 'Silver'. With his travelling companion Silver Katherine, Visions is supposedly a journey into the subconscious mind, with song titles such as QACHINA, ONALASKA and TAQOMA, all in caps for effect and spelled strangely because they are a reflection of "one's third eye in the rear view mirror", according to the album's press release.

Wow.  

Musically, the album does feel like it's somewhere in the subconscious, with all kinds of Beatles, Steely Dan and Bon Iver vibe peppered throughout. In fact, it's so much of a rehash that it is incredibly boring.  "Lon Bella" sounds like it could be right out of a movie like "American Hustle". Opener "November 20" begins with Yellow Submarine era Ringo Starr drums. "ONALASKA" opens with soft guitar reverb and falsetto which is delivered quite nicely in the beginning, and then devolves into something reminiscent of musical soft porn.  

Single "Exit 353" is a good effort, because it is different. It is the hardest song on the album, with edge and synth effects which nicely compliment Jurado's tenor. It's complex and big, but seems out of place with the 70's vibe the rest of the album has. "And Loraine" channels Neil Diamond's original version of "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon", though you can imagine King Roeser of Urge Overkill singing. 

Produced by Richard Smith in Oregon, there is too much dependence on effect.  Jurado has a lovely voice, which on prior albums has stood out on tracks such as "Ohio" or "Museum of Flight".  Smith puts Jurado's voice through so much echo it sounds like he is in a stairwell, and this alone is frustrating. These songs would likely be much more palatable had Smith stripped the songs down and let Jurado's voice shine. 

Lyrically, I don't know what to say.  I give Jurado credit for the attempt.  It's very artistic, but seems way overblown almost to the point of arrogant.  His idea for these albums should of been edited down to a single 70 minute, 18 song opus.  43 songs and 3 albums?  It's so over the top it loses the listener.  Maraqopa was an interesting listen.  Visions is just forgettable. 

I once read a quote by a certain "American Woman" artist that said  "I mean, there are only so many notes. What makes something original is how you put it together". Unfortunately, Visions of Us On The Land isn't a reimagination of another era of music.  It's a boring collection of lounge music which conjures up visions of smoke filled bars, cigarette holders and long shirt lapels with velvet jackets.  It's not a place that I ever want to musically visit again.  

 

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