Trouble - _Simple Mind Condition_
(Escapi Music, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (
Well, shit, after a dozen or so years the new Trouble record is upon us, and I guess the only question at this point is: what preconceptions does it fail to live up to? Although we all choke back that familiar, suffocating skepticism and hope for the best, the simple fact is that it's wholly unnatural to expect a group of musicians who haven't worked together in years to step into a room, fire up the amps, warm up the control panel, and knock out not just a decent record, but a career-capping classic, one of the top two or three entries in the catalog, superior even to most of the platters that were churned out when the band still had months and months of uninterrupted woodshedding and momentum going their way._Simple Mind Condition_, therefore, was resolutely fated to produce the exact same polarization of emotion-tugging in the fan base that it of course turns out to realize on tape. Many have cried foul in leading off with the regurgitated "Goin' Home" (recycled off 1994's rarely listened to _One for the Road_ EP); I can't fault that criticism. "Goin' Home" is not a blight on the catalog, exactly, but does seem a bit rudimentary both in the songwriting and the delivery. In fact, tracks two through four continue in the same genial yet formulaic rut before "After the Rain" finally flashes a bit of teeth -- and no, it's not a Nelson cover, for those bemoaning the questionable choice of cover songs the band previously closed out leg one of their career with.That said, _SMC_ isn't devoid of covers, this go-round hitting us up with a rarity in Lucifer Rising's proto-metal chestnut "Ride the Sky". Unlike "Porpoise Song" or "Tomorrow Never Knows", both off 1995's artistic nadir _Plastic Green Head_, "Ride the Sky" comes off as if it were damn near crafted especially for a band like Trouble, sounding uncannily dead on in much the same way the interpolation of Donovan's "Atlantis" lyrics locked in exquisitely with the rest of _Manic Frustration_ finale "Breathe".Oddly enough, it's toward the end of _SMC_ when the band really start to come to life, not only on the cover song -- retread territory which is typically phoned in if anything at all is -- but on honed to the bone doom rockers like "If I Only Had a Reason" and the title track, both as simplistic and unrefined as the opening salvo of yawn inducers, but infused with more grit and enthusiasm, the varying reception being the difference between a band struggling to recapture its chemistry and one that's put the hours and the elbow grease in and locked back into that mutually inclusive groove. The culmination of the band's return to form is easily the last track on the album, the piano-laced, funereal hymn "The Beginning of Sorrows", an achingly elegant paean to mourning without solace.As a piece, the album is an almost chronological look at a band getting back into the swing of it all, things not really gelling at first, or at least not on any kind of previously accustomed to level, but as time marches on old habits settle into place and mere re-acquainting gestures give way to higher aspirations. Even with the mixed bag they currently have on offer with _SMC_, the Windy City veterans have reason to keep their chins up regarding future projects. Despite having only a handful of standout tracks, there is a uniform likeability to all eleven songs here that wasn't present on 1995's _Plastic Green Head_, the only entry in the Trouble canon not worth at least an 8 out of 10... and that's an improvement, especially considering that last time out there weren't twelve years worth of rust to blame for the half-assed results. Yeah, if this is the sound of a once great band getting their feet wet after years of landlocked inactivity, I look forward to the inevitable dive back into the deep end of the pool.
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