I must admit that the real reason Xavier Rudd piqued my interest for his seventh album, Spirit Bird, is that it was released on SideOneDummy Records. I thought, “Hmm. This could be kind of interesting. Why not?”
And I’m all for labels signing or distributing records for different artists. After all, why shouldn’t a label be diverse? Sometimes putting eggs in different baskets can pay off. As it turns out, I just do not think banging on some hand drums qualifies as music. Okay, it’s music but it’s the interest-holding part that will be challenged. Rudd straight up likes indigenous sounds and that’s definitely different. Considerably it’s not too often Americans will hear Australian Aboriginal chanting and rainforest sounds.
SideOneDummy is a label that is down with recording traditional folk, whether it’s Ukrainian rambling Gogol Bordello or American New Jersey style heartbreak with The Gaslight Anthem. Look, it’s not the traditional elements that are total turn-offs. I mean really, who doesn’t think didgeridoos are cool?
What it actually is is the unfortunate RIYL artists. We’re talking mom jeans rock and teenage stoners. So I guess that means anywhere in between John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.
Any song on Spirit Bird that isn’t too packed with experimental or worldly sounds may have a shot at alternative radio like “Comfortable In My Skin” or “Bow Down.” These songs, much like the single “Follow the Sun,” are more acoustic guitar and harmonica-based. It at least has a shot at mass appeal.
But uh, “Lioness Eye” and “Spirit Bird” itself can’t even go there. It’s just well, weird, for the lack of a better term. Maybe it’s the whispering style of singing. Maybe it’s the jungle noises (or it’s the sad fact I keep seeing images of Lion King in my head). Maybe it’s the sprawling length of songs that just go on. And on. And on. And on. Literally, the second half of the album may in fact be a repeat of the first half. We need an investigator on this case.
The lyrics are feel-good stuff, like in the closer “Creating a Dream” which says “Imagine if the heart could shed its skin.” I am not oblivious to the fact there will be people out there who will dig this but, even for the vast array of MEB readers’ tastes, I don’t think we’ll find any here. This is a sore spot on the label’s catalogue. I feel duped.