Reviewed by Tony Cummings
A loud, long blast of "Dependence Day" may worry some. Here is something grungier, with the new Edens going the way their major influence the Waterboys have been heading the last few years, away from roots towards rock. Plus there are some real surprises, the major one being actor Brian Blessed popping up for a brief appearance on the opening of "The Joust". The new harsher, doomier Edens as on the turbulent, tempo changing "Forgive Me Not" doesn't for me quite have the immediacy of earlier albums. But judging from the way their adoring legion of enthusiasts responded to the new songs on the 'Mirth & Matter' tour this small step away from the mandolin-driven, rocked-up-jigs-and-reels and towards a more egalitarian indie-rock-with-occasional-folk-tinges is well thought out. Paul Northup's inimitable vocals have their usual gruff passion, Charlotte Ayrton's harmonica goes from strength to strength (grab her dazzling performance on the driving "The Joust") while there are some deft production touches from the band's veteran man-behind-the-desk Dave Pick. Musical standouts are the quite unexpected string quartet outro to "Six Months On" and the nearest thing to an old style Eden Burning roots number "Hey Diddle Diddle" with its delightful nursery images. Paul's use of lyrical imagery is as thought provoking as ever. For instance, there's a powerful evocation of a sense of wonder lost (in childhood), then found (in conversion) then temporarily mislaid in the glib, prosaicness of current evangelicalism - well, that's my interpretation of the fleeting images of "Remember When". Once or twice Paul's train of thought loses me and I wonder whether internal introspection has got too much a hold, either that or the dread hand of self-conscious artiness which deadens the appeal of a band like Over The Rhine. But I digress, I think there's much to explore in 'Mirth & Matter'. Many will be exploring.
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