wears the trousers magazine

visqueen: message to garcia (2009)
September 28, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , , ,


Message To Garcia •••½
Local 638

Message To Garcia – the third album from Seattle trio Visqueen – is billed as “a rock and roll epitaph to frontwoman Rachel Flotard’s father”. Continuing through the accompanying press release, we discover that ‘A Message To Garcia’ is an 1899 essay by American philosopher Elbert Hubbard celebrating the bravery of a soldier who accomplished a mission with an ascetic degree discipline. Flotard’s dad compelled his daughter to read Hubbard’s essay as he lay on his deathbed, hoping its message would inspire her to continue performing and songwriting in the face of immense stress and, later, a deep period of grief. But the essay also represents the no-nonsense approach exhibited by Visqueen. Much like the protagonist of ‘A Message To Garcia’, their music doesn’t ask any questions of the listener; it simply gets on with the task in hand.

If that all makes Message To Garcia sound like an oppressively mawkish record, fear not. Its default musical setting is energetic power-pop, similar to that performed by The New Pornographers whenever Neko Case takes the microphone (not a coincidental similarity: Flotard provided backing vocals for Neko Case’s last two albums, and Case returns the favour here by trilling away in the background of several tracks). And while it’s true that highlights like ‘Hand Me Down’, ‘Janitor’s Waltz’ and ‘Ward’ are brimming with chunky riffs and knotty hooks, this is no boringly rockist, meat-and-potatoes affair. Interesting things are often taking place around the edges of the songs – a cello gainfully shadows the brisk riffage of ‘Summer Snow’, while a decidedly Cheap Trick-y synth enhances the stadium pop vibe of ‘Ward’.

Although it’s pretty much pedal to the metal from the get-go, Message To Garcia takes a breather at its halfway point in the form of sparse ballad ‘So Long’. Flotard’s impressive pipes are accompanied by nothing more than a Rhodes keyboard and a mournful cello, and the song seems to be desperate to burst into Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ throughout. Despite the inspirational message that lies at its heart, Message To Garcia isn’t a record that’ll change anyone’s life. But it’s unpretentious, a lot of fun and will probably be an absolute blast when performed live.

Christopher Monk
UK release date: 14/09/09; www.myspace.com/visqueen


1 Comment so far
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Except for the fact they’re a 5-piece now

Comment by dk

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