TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2007 |
That the Mumlers borrow their name from an enterprising 19th century photographer (that being William H. Mumler) who fetched top dollar for the frozen images of the dearly departed he claimed haunted the frames of his compositions may seem like just another inconsequential historical reference for a band seeking an interesting talking point. But listening to the Bay Area ensemble’s debut album does feel a bit like ghost hunting in a place you’d least expect to drum up long forgotten spirits. Upon first listen, Thickets and Stitches (Galaxia) is an impressive breeding grounds for songwriter Will Sprott’s warm, two inch take on old world waltz, jazz café kicks, folksy wranglers, and workaday guitar/voice pairings. Not only that, but the fellow from San Jose also knows the way to proper embellishment of the basic blocks of American rock. On Thickets and Stitches it starts with accentuating keys, the rusty blare of a second hand brass band, sun kissed slide guitar, and warm fits of accordion.
But sonic appearances can sound deceiving, and on Thickets and Stitches they often are. Sure, there is a certain kind of every day grace that falls from Sprott’s jaw every time he draws it open. But his semi-drunken humor resembles that of the smashed soul who’s been straddling the same bar stool all those years down at the local dive. Sure, he’s a hoot. But deep down, like Mumlers’ photos, Sprott’s rosy reality is haunted by something. Judging by lines like “In 1980 two kids had a baby/I suppose their condom must have broke” (“Dice in a Drawer”) and “If you gathered all my mug shots together you could make a flip book of a boy growing old” (“Untie My Knots”), I’d say it’s his past. – David Pitz