by Ted Chase March 21, 2008
Note : 7.2
Prolific singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur gets serious and even political on his first of four new EP’s, Could We Survive. Arthur is better known for being discovered by Peter Gabriel, and providing the often covered “In The Sun” for benefit and tribute albums. But he’s also an artist with his own studio in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, and now has his own band, The Lonely Astronauts, and his own label, Lonely Astronaut. More importantly, he’s a writing & releasing machine, recording every live show and selling the CD-R’s immediately after the set, and, in 2002, he issued four different Junkyard Hearts EP’s in the lead-up to the drop date of his full-length, Redemption’s Son. Now, Arthur goes at it again, with one a month (QRO release schedule) until the August debut of All You Need Is Nothing – starting things out with the timely Could We Survive.
With leadoff track “Rages of Babylon”, it’s clear that this isn’t the same Joseph Arthur. It isn’t the first time the musician has changed things up – he’s gone from the world music of his early, Peter Gabriel days to high melody on Redemption’s Son, soft fuzz on 2004’s Our Shadows Will Remain, haunting reverb on the following And the Thieves Are Gone EP, and then full-band rock ‘n’ roll on his last two LP’s, last year'sNuclear Daydream and Let’s Just Be. Now Arthur delivers an out-and-out anti-war song, a strong alt-country/folk procession. The lyrics are a little banal, but still better than most of today’s rather lackluster crop of ‘protest’ songs.
Download “Rages of Babylon” for free here: www.josepharthur.com/mp3/ja-ragesofbabylon.mp3
The mood really changes with the following “Morning Cup”, a sweet, touching, even bright number that unfortunately goes on a little too long. More winning is “Shadow of Lies”, another sunny piece (despite the title), whose airy growth benefits from certain distorted effects. Arthur gets a little more somber with the quiet, stripped choral title track, but it is the finely proceeding “Walk Away” that expands nicely into echoing power. Survive finishes with the reverb-ish sad anthem, “King of the Pavement”.
In some ways a return to his more sonically affected works, Could We Survive actually stands out on its own among Arthur’s vast catalogue. Despite its small size, the EP has real weight. Arthur celebrates its release tonight at his studio, ‘The Museum of Modern Arthur’, where he’s also showing off his visual art (QRO calendar listing). ‘Cause he just doesn’t produce enough material already…