Poison the Well - _The Tropic Rot_
(Ferret Records, 2009)
by: Jackie Smit (7.5 out of 10)
The challenge that Poison the Well would always stare down in recording a follow-up to 2007's _Versions_ was proving that lightning could strike twice; no easy task when you consider that in the eyes of many pundits that particular release is regarded to be one of the finest to see the light of day in many moons. The question then is how you go about recreating that magic. Do you stick with the formula that won you more accolades then you could shake a stick at? Or, do you reset, clear the slate and start afresh? It's quite the conundrum, particularly given that _Versions_ was essentially a roaring success by virtue of the fact that it practically set fire to the band's existing blueprint, taking a kitchen-sink approach to song craft that included thinly veiled odes to the Spaghetti Western theme songs of Ennio Morricone. Then again, another creative left turn could alienate and confuse fans.

Almost unsurprisingly then, the Miami-based quintet have opted for the former and fifteen seconds after "Exist Underground" has hit, it becomes clear that _The Tropic Rot_ is going to run short on the wow-factor its predecessor had in spades. Comparatively "Sparks It Will Rain" and "Cinema" sound almost reined in and conservative, even if they're not necessarily drab points in the Poison the Well canon. "Who Doesn't Love a Good Dismemberment" however is exactly that; a track that just never quite gets it right, hacking maniacally at far too many musical nuances to be anywhere near effective.

Don't make the mistake of writing _The Tropic Rot_ off however. No sooner have they dispensed with a clutch of songs that would arguably not have made the cut on _Versions_, than what they wheel one of their finest moments to date in the form of "When You Lose, I Lose As Well" -- an infectious, acoustic-led throwback to Ryan Primack's fascination with Morricone. Moments later, it's been upstaged by the sublime "Are You Anywhere?"; equal parts haunting ballad and face-ripping monster. It's moments like these that remind you that Poison the Well may be one of the most criminally underrated fringe acts around -- of the calibre thought lost forever when Faith No More first called it a day. Now let's hope their next album is a tad more consistent.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/poisonthewell

(article published 3/9/2009)

7/5/2008 J Smit Poison the Well: Last Chance for a Slow Dance
3/25/2007 J Smit 8 Poison the Well - Versions
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