Sound & Fury
In one of the most delightful (and successful) left-turns in recent history here Sturgill Simpson evokes Macbeth in the title, Daft Punk in the execution (anime Netflix special of the same name acting as “visual album”/accompaniment) and fries southern boogie to such a degree that it even turns out like disco (A Good Look).
Much of Sound & Fury feels like what might happen if Dan Auerbach took all the goodwill and vibes from his various production duties and honed it into a personal sound for his own material; yes I remembered the great days of The Black Keys when I listened to Sound & Fury (opener proper, Return To Breathe). More importantly though I remembered the golden days of The Black Crowes (All Said And Done) and some of the more recent ZZ Top material too (Best Clockmaker on Mars, Fastest Horse in Town).
So what the actual fuck, right?
You know Simpson from his Metamodern Sounds in Country and his Sailor’s Guide to Earth, both tremendous achievements. Both albums where country was the template and there was experimentation around it but it was still evocative of a big family reunion table setting in a barn somewhere.
Well, after too many people got keen on his Nirvana covers and his own great originals, Sturg seemingly decided to just explode into a nearly camp combination of glam and powerpop (Last Man Standing) and with plenty of big, dumb rock’n’roll moments (Sing Along). You’ll spot some country feel too (Mercury in Retrograde) because he won’t ever shake that entirely. But shit has he given it a bloody good go here though.
He’s also made a weird and wondrous thing. Granted, I prefer the second half of the album more. I’m not one for space-age concepts and anime-pairings really. So opener, Ronin, is a rather great intro-announcement that things are going to be different. But it’s not a song of any kind. And the tunes that follow immediately are linked to some time of airy-fairy “concept”. Something I could do without.
But when the good-time jam-band moments arrive I’m 100% on board.
And just look at that cover. And listen to some of this madness. Neil Young’s Trans was on his mind I reckon. As should be the case. For that’s surely one of the greatest left-turns of all time. Of all time.
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