The Muffins — Double Negative
(Cuneiform Rune 199, 2004, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2005-03-01
I suppose any time a band that has been around as long as the Muffins puts out a new album, there’s going to be some disagreement among fans about its merits. Whether they changed too much or too little, people will complain. You can’t please all the people, etc. I’m going to come down on the “love it” side for Double Negative. It has many of the elements present from the beginning of the band’s history: compositions that change drastically during their course, jazzy sax parts, wild non-melodic guitar, repeating rhythmic motifs, a mixture of improvisation and composition. The overall impression here is that the composition side dominates, especially due to the frequent use of guest musicians to augment the core quartet. Strings, trombone, and extra saxes pump up the arrangements to levels beyond what we’ve heard before. There is less Canterbury and a bit more RIO than there used to be; the sound is probably closer to Birdsongs of the Mesozoic than Henry Cow (I always felt the Muffins were kind of like a mutated combination of Henry Cow and National Health). But still, behind the added frills, there are some great tunes with strong individual performances, and I don’t begrudge these guys the chance to stretch their arranging muscles. What is lost in immediacy (compared to something like the remixed tracks on <185>, for example) is gained in a broader palette, and there are plenty of contrasting moments when it drops down to just bass, drums and sax.
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more