The Gena Rowlands Band – Flesh and Spirits
Label: Lujo Records
Release Date: April 10, 2007
I have been waging a personal battle for some time. Music versus Lyrics. I am inclined to give the edge to music and melody. Maybe it’s a consequence of growing up in the Taking Back Sunday generation. Or maybe it’s just because I can barely speak English. Either way, I notice a complicated riff before a confusing rhyme scheme. All that being said, The Gena Rowlands Band plays the internal peacemaker and simply asks, "Why not both?"
Bob Massey, the brains and balls of the ever-changing Band, is a talented wordsmith, crafting songs about faith, the disowned, lust and, most importantly, hope. His silky, world-weary baritone is the main component on Flesh and Spirits. The alt-country, jazz and folk musical styles allow for truly honest storytelling. Only when his voice is masked by electronics on “The Joke I Played on Washington” and “These Windows on the World” does Massey shift his focus from lyricism to experimentation, with lackluster results.
Perhaps the best indication of the genius (i.e. artful insanity) Massey possesses is on “God & The Way Women Walk.” Massey basically blames God for his uncontrollable lust over a soft snare beat and bluesy riff. Here’s a first, I’m giving a lyric it’s own paragraph:
“God knows the way women walk. God made the way women walk. God is like the way women walk. And God knows I lose myself the moment you talk.”
And while I could go on and on about Massey’s writing, his backing band ain’t too shabby either. Featuring former members of Dismemberment Plan (!!) and Beauty Pill, among others, The Gena Rowlands Band is a force of musical experience. “Althea” is a much-needed instrumental number in which the frantic cymbals and strings mimic a beautiful, windswept landscape. Even when Massey offers a chance to let my brain rest, I am still sucked in.
The farther into this review I get, the more inadequate my writing seems compared to Massey. And let’s face it, the last thing I need is more self-doubt. If you’ve been looking for a stimulating album akin to an uncle that has a story for just about every situation imaginable, Flesh and Spirits will hit the mark. But if you’re like me and tune Uncle Mike out, the music will still be enough for some damn good daydreams.
Recommended If You Like: Dismemberment Plan, Canyon, the phrase “been there, done that”, William Payne, The Raconteurs