Plumbiferous Media

Back & Fourth - Pete Yorn

Jun 28th 2009
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Back & Fourth - Pete YornPete Yorn
Back & Fourth
Score: 58

Pete Yorn began releas­ing albums in 2001 with his first LP, music­forthe­morningafter, though he began cre­at­ing music far before that. His newest album, Back & Fourth, fol­lows a tril­o­gy of loose­ly con­nect­ed albums that includ­ed his first. Yorn has always been asso­ci­at­ed with alt and acoustic rock and the singer-song­writer aes­thet­ic, and his newest album dis­plays influ­ence from all of these sources. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it lacks the inspi­ra­tion need­ed to make it into an espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing release.

Pete Yorn has man­aged to work in some strong points into his oth­er­wise dull album. “Social Devel­op­ment Dance” begins with a sim­ple gui­tar line accom­pa­ny­ing Yorn’s vocals, but near­ing the first minute, a sec­ond gui­tar enters with a per­cus­sion line, and while the per­cus­sion isn’t notably unique, the gui­tar adds a some­what cre­ative coun­ter­melody. The com­bi­na­tion, though not ter­ri­bly unex­pect­ed, trumps any action tak­en ear­li­er in the album. In the adja­cent track, “Shot­gun,” the gui­tar, which had pre­vi­ous­ly been con­cen­trat­ing clos­er to the mid­dle of its range, switch­es to a low-cen­tered accom­pa­ni­ment to add a slight­ly dif­fer­ent dimen­sion to the album. “Last Sum­mer,” which begins with and con­tains a num­ber of drum fills, pro­vides the lis­ten­er with a brief glimpse into Yorn’s more active, cre­ative mind­set that was oth­er­wise absent on Back & Fourth.

Aside from rel­a­tive­ly brief moments, Back & Fourth is devoid of any cre­ativ­i­ty that is nor­mal­ly con­sid­ered a neces­si­ty when pro­duc­ing a seri­ous album. Still, Yorn is clear­ly tal­ent­ed. Noth­ing ever strays out of tune, the gui­tar lines are well inflect­ed, the vocals are quite strong, and seem to be emo­tion­al­ly con­nect­ed despite the lack­ing lyrics. From a pure­ly musi­cal stand­point, Back & Fourth is actu­al­ly a strong album.

Though Back & Fourth dis­plays gen­er­al tech­ni­cal pro­fi­cien­cy and occa­sion­al cre­ativ­i­ty, it’s essen­tial­ly devoid of major inno­va­tion. Instead, we’re left with the feel­ing of hav­ing heard every minute of the album in anoth­er equal­ly bland and inof­fen­sive form. Yorn’s voice may be in good form, the instru­men­tal ele­ments of the album well-com­posed, but with­out new mate­r­i­al the album is quite dull. This becomes appar­ent fair­ly quick­ly, as each track blends into the next, quick­ly turn­ing Back & Fourth into back­ground noise.

The clichéd nature of the album is espe­cial­ly appar­ent in the lyrics, which rarely fail to fol­low time-test­ed and over-repeat­ed pat­terns - these for­lorn love songs are the for­lorn love songs of every oth­er gener­ic singer-song­writer. On the few occa­sions when Yorn steps out of the flow of plat­i­tudes which defines the album, as on “Social Devel­op­ment Dance” where we’re giv­en a gem of a line like “I Googled you in quotes / Got no results,” which reads some­where between farce and Yorn attempt­ing to cre­ate his own 21st cen­tu­ry aphorisms.

Though Pete Yorn has the musi­cal abil­i­ty to cre­ate a great album, Back & Fourth does not live up to the stan­dards one would expect from a musi­cian of his poten­tial. The album is filled with absolute­ly unin­ven­tive lyrics, and melodies and har­monies straight out of the book of “Gener­ic Acoustic Rock Tunes.” The tracks of Back & Fourth are well-played, but the album is about as adven­tur­ous as a glass of lemonade.

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