The Minor White – Old Theatrics

by


The Minor White– “Old Theatrics”
(Prairie Queen Records – Oct. 21, 2008)
By Matthew Ralph

Thanks to The Office and more recently the vice presidential candidacy of Joe Biden, Scranton, Penn., has developed a national reputation for being a blue-collar town town with a quirky sense of humor.

The Minor White, a band with ties to Scranton, embodies both in their debut “Old Theatrics,” a melancholy affair of jazzy, folky rock with quirky lyrics.

The band wastes little time into the record showing this blend with “Old Fashioned Drinker (In a River of Glue),” a vibrant number with whimsical orchestration and infectious harmonies that appropriately introduce a cast of characters in the stage performance suggested by the album’s title.

At first listen, the song and subsequent tracks seem to wear a Wilco influence but the more I’ve returned to the record, always hitting play on track one to start it off, the more I appreciate the way “Old Theatrics” builds off its strong opening statement, weaving a musical narrative that alludes to several artists both contemporary and classic without completely parroting any of them.

Slow-moving at times, the music is orchestrated in a way that requires the listener to crank the volume and patiently wait for the layers of instruments to fill the space. “Vaudeville,” for example, starts with an extended atmospheric introduction and then rips into a swanky rhythmic affair worthy of its title. The final minute is split between a crunch of guitars and effects and what sounds like a musical response representing a bawdy crowd of drunks. Old-fashioned drinking, indeed.

“Go To Hell” is one of several songs on the record that goes from a relaxing combo of piano, guitar and drums into a frenzied blend of guitar-heavy rock almost in the blink of an eye. “I Burned Down Every House” is similarly relaxing at the outset before building toward a collision of sound.

This peak and valley approach is evident throughout, adding to the narrative and theatric quality of the recording. Just when you think you’ve pegged their sound, The Minor White take you some place you weren’t necessarily expecting, leading a journey through the kind of colorful beer-soaked journey that may just be a typical weekend for someone from the quirky, blue-collar city that is The Minor White’s now famous hometown.

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