By Dominic Allen
September 26, 2013
I’ve been a long time admirer of Califone head honchos Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella. This is due not only to their work with Califone but also Ugly Casanova and Red, Red Meat which have ploughed a fertile furlough. In all three incarnations their atmospheric and disjointed blues/folk/psych-inflected tunes have never disappointed me. Added to this is Califone’s fairly prolific work as super-subs in a variety of supporting roles and collaborations. The three previously named bands are not going to appeal to everybody but, alas, there’s also no great rush to outlaw supporters of the Tory party so different strokes for different folks, I guess. With this degree of personal history with them I was more than greatly appreciative of their new album Stitches.
Califone have hit a groove that is somewhat different from other Rutili-Massarella collaborations and this continues on their new album. They don’t really do stand out songs, with the tunes tending to run together as a sum of parts. Of all the tunes that I’ve heard them do, the only one that really stood out as a possible single was the title track from All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. That said, to these ears, the songs most likely to convert new fans are ‘Stitches’, ‘Frosted Tips’ and ‘Magdalene’; while ‘Moses’ sums up the off-kilter, bleak humour that they tend to inflect their songs with.
My only criticism of Califone in general is that they can sound too much like a David Lynch soundtrack and – on the songs ‘Moonbath.Brainsalt.A.Holy.Fool’ and ‘Turtle Eggs/An Optimist’ – can be a touch too smart for their own good at times. In both of these instances it does seem like Califone are trying a little too hard to sound like Califone. Other than that I cannot find anything that I would change or fault about this album.
Despite my preference for Califone this is the first of their offerings that I’ve listened to since their arguably classic album All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. In total Stitches is the same but different to their previous albums although possibly more atmospheric and less world-weary and bleak. While the previously cited album is potentially a better starting point for newly interested parties Stitches is not going to offend existing fans.