The Earth Pressed Flat
How the mighty have fallen. Less than ten years ago, 10,000 Maniacs was one of the most exciting, intriguing, bands. Then they experienced mainstream success, and frontwoman Natalie Merchant left the group to pursue a solo career. With their muse departed, the rest of the Maniacs turned to Mary Ramsey, a fiddle player who they elevated to lead singer and replacement for Merchant. There is no way to justify the move. Ramsey, who shows some prowess with a violin, and isn't exactly a bad singer, lacks the mystical qualities Merchant brought to the band's songs, not to mention her odd lyrical crafting that was so important to 10,000 Maniacs' style. The songs are longing for a punch. They linger without direction. The band is full of talented musicians in search of good material to play. The songs lack any emotional connection with the listener, and there is too much lingering style from the old songs to not long for Natalie Merchant. The band is just a shell of itself, and even subtracting the Natalie Merchant factor, this new album is desperately dull.
Bar/None Records, P.O. Box 1704, Hoboken, NJ 07030; http://www.bar-none.com