And sometimes the cows take a fucking long time to come home. Two-and-a-half years after the release of Apocalypse Cow, v. 1—an eternity in these fast and heady turn-of-the-century years—SeepeopleS delivers the second edition. Surprisingly lacking the ambition and scope of the prior volume, or even the mildly groundbreaking Corn Syrup Conspiracy, the crafty group still manages to forge a fascinating release.
The SeepeepS are led by über pop candy songsmith Will Bradford, and the band’s lineup has changed yet again, currently including Matt McDonald, Ben Wells, and Adam Chase. Apocalypse Cow, Vol. 2, however, is produced by occasional Dead Can Dance and Pixies’ producer Will Holland, like both of those previously mentioned SS releases, and the gifted producer does a solid job of defining the shape of Bradford’s vision.
On Volume 2, Bradford expands his influences to include the Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, and a time-unhinged Devendra Banhart. From there, his current bandmates head off under the songwriter’s direction through twelve tracks that create a very evocative downtempo mood. Headphone friendly, the songs crackle with moody inspiration. And therein lies the rub. Bradford has slowly developed into a musician that can assimilate many influences, creating his own sonic footprint within a singular artistic statement, but one wonders if he needs to throw away all templates, and just rock out for a spell.
What works here is the songcraft, which is unquestionably impressive, memorable, and laced with intriguing hooks. The wonderfully warm opening trio of “What’s Missing?,” “What Makes It Go,” and “Modern Times” rolls forward from chamber music to rich ambience to a pop confessional. When sturdy riffs do appear, as on the anthemic manic depressive and PMS gem “When You Can’t Stand,” alas, Bradford doesn’t develop the song into a larger statement. “The Most Famous One,” after several stretches of spacey soul music on a few previous tracks (Think Prince kidnapped by a detouring Pink Floyd starship), is too alien and disruptive for the set. On “Big Heart (Modern Love),” Bradford writes a sublime soul tune with a passionate and wrenching slow burn vocal, but the piece is too long, and doesn’t shift enough tempo gears.
There are a hell of lot of good songs on both volumes of Apocalypse Cow. One wonders if Bradford can continue moving forward, seeking new inspiration, while deepening his already formidable skills, to create the masterwork that is original, tantalizing, and filled with the songs that only sound like, well…Will Bradford, or SeepeopleS, or whathaveya, with or without the revolving door of musicians. In the true modern turn o’ century, post-economic meltdown spirit of the thang, SeepeopleS offers this release for free on their website until is is released properly in the spring of 2010.
Randy Ray is a Senior Editor of Jambands.com.