Part of New Jersey’s rich indie scene, Speed The Plough has a family tree deserving its own entry in any rock genealogy, with crisscrossing branches including The Feelies, The Trypes and Wild Carnation.
The band’s ninth album sees them revisiting a couple of Trypes tracks with the help of former bandmates like Feelies Glenn Mercer and Brenda Sauter, perform a pair of intriguing covers and even reinterpret the title track from 1995 STP album “Marina.”
The current lineup consists of John, Toni and Mike Baumgartner (parents and son) and Ed Siefert, with help from bassist Dan Francia (son of Marc, an original Trype) and drummer Ken Meyer.
Launching the album is the captivating “Crossing the Tisza,” a popular Hungarian folk song collected by Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly in the early 1900s. Sung in English with Hungarian recitation by Anna Baumgartner (John’s mom), its hurdy-gurdy-like drone adds a further layer of authenticity. The other cover is Brian Eno’s reflecting, lovely “By This River.”
Among the originals, feelings of unresolved or unsettled relationships abound, while musical highlights include the crystalline guitar tones on “Take Me,” Toni Baumgartner’s clarinet (though her vocals are much more sincere than sturdy) and the kaleidoscopic “Why We Fall in Love.”
The album’s caboose contains the Trypes performances, both fantastic. “Running On” sounds a bit like fellow New Jerseyans the Roches, complete with a Robert Fripp-like guitar line, and closer “Dark Continents” features Elbrus Kelemet, whose vocals combine John Cale with Richard Thompson.
“…And Then” is a welcome addition to Speed The Plough’s catalog, a fine example of their endurance, humanity and empathic songwriting.
Pablo Gorondi, AP