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‘Kiss’ is really just a peck

Submitted by Matt Johnson on January 28, 2011 – 6:15 pmNo Comment

For anyone who’s been following Iron & Wine since the beginning, “Kiss Each Other Clean” shouldn’t come as a shock.

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Sam Beam came on the scene in 2002 with the release of his first LP, “The Creek Drank the Cradle.”  Recorded in Beam’s home on a 4-track machine. The album was both fragile and beautiful. Filled with religious symbolism, softly-strummed guitar and Beam’s hushed vocals, it was a breath of fresh air.

Beam followed up with “Our Endless Numbered Days” in 2004. It wasn’t quite as lo-fi as “Creek” but still had the same overall feeling. In 2007, he released “The Shepherd’s Dog” and experimented with affecting his vocals, different song structures, different rhythms and a full band.

“Walking Far From Home” kicks off “Kiss.” Beam’s voice is laden with effects in the intro but as a piano comes in, he sheds the effects like a second skin as rising backing vocals combine to turn the moment into something very special.

The song is filled with various characters, from young lovers to old widows to millionaires pissing on lawns. “I saw lovers / In a window, whisper /  Want me like time, want me like time,” he sings.

“Me and Lazarus” sounds a bit like a companion piece to “Boy With a Coin” off “The Shepherd’s Dog,” with its active bass line, beat and ambient bits of noise that creep in from time to time.

Some songs are just misses, like “Monkeys Uptown.” It just falls flat and isn’t really compelling in any respect.

He saved the worst for last. “Your Fake Name is Good Enough For Me” is a seven-minute disaster. It starts off like a forgotten underground ’70s AM rock song that should have remained missing. It gets bogged down and never recovers. Not that it had a real chance; it was DOA.

I really wanted to like the album, but in the end there were just too many glaring flaws and I can’t really recommend it. That’s a tough thing for me to do, especially with how I feel about his first two albums. Hopefully this is just a hiccup and he’s gotten it out of his system, ready now to move on to bigger and better things.

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