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The Giraffes - The Days Are Filled With Years

Chris Ballew's second Post PUSA recording, as reviewed by Chris.Ballew.Net's Mike Lyon.

Just got my advance copy of The Giraffes - The Days Are Filled With Years, and so in the grand old Mike Lyon tradition, it's time for a review on the occasion of my first listen. Thanks to Tom and Ron and Chris for getting this little gem my way (yes Tom, it came! Hallelujah!) Well, let's plug it in and see how Chris fares this time out the gate!

Giraffes in the Underworld - One hell of a fine start. A low, steady acoustic guitar rift flows like a river into some truly creepy keyboards and backwards samples! It's only the first song, and already, in terms of craftsmanship, I'd say it's sonically more pleasing than almost anything off the first album! I am truly surprised by this fabulous little instrumental, and it's gotten me RAVENOUS for things to come! 

Kill the Cake - A very sunshiny and melodic keyboard rift starts this song. Aaand here comes Chris! Very old-school rock and roll; and, my GOD! Is that a Chris guitar solo?! This is a very funky and psychedelic song! I'm definitely reminded of the first Giraffes album, and what I wrote on the occasion of my first listen to THAT album! There's a fabulous breakdown at the end that is very folksy, and it's on to:

Black Shadow - Wow. A very cool beginning to a very spacey song. GREAT keyboards, and Chris harmonizing with himself. This one reminds me of Bath of Fire, actually, although it has a very old-school Western feel to it. The chorus is great, too; very creepy! It all ends with a fabulous extended repetition...

Drunk on the Sweepings - Continuing the Western theme. This is a goddamn Willie Nelson country and blues number! Oh, this one is GREAT fun! Only 4 songs in, and already I know that this is a good album. And let me tell you, I was worried. Not that I ever doubted Chris, but "13 Other Dimensions" was such a brilliant album that, honestly, I didn't know if he could surpass it so soon. But really, not to jump the gun, but I can see myself listening to this album until doomsday! Btw, Chris' voice is really maturing. He sounds much cleaner than ever before, and he sings both higher and lower when harmonizing in this song than I've heard him before!

Easy Phantom - An easy moving number that gets a great little drum beat a couple measures in, and some creepy reverb keyboards. In the words of Jack Nicholson, "people who speak in metaphors should shampoo my crotch", but: this song is like a further step with the Giraffes in the underworld! An instrumental like that first track, this is almost like a continuation, a deeper level of the underworld, like ice caves... If that sounds too wanky, kill me. It's a great little song, and the overall theme of the album is certainly becoming more clear   

Gone Again Gone - The payoff. Here it is... It is much more melancholy than the Moveable Bubble version, if that's humanly possible. But in this version, Chris' voice is just so much more... Sad. Creepy ghosts howl in the background, and Chris' low and sweet guitar is the only other sound. A great little keyboard solo where Dana Coley's sax solo was... A truly sad and moving song. I'm happy that a version different than the Moveable Bubble one still has such a fine impact the first listen... He does a little more great harmonizing at the end, and then a canyon fadeout...

When She's Drunk - Huh! Starts out sounding almost like a slow-moving STP or Black Crowes song! Wow, this is great. A nice, floaty Chris falsetto singing "She only loves me when she's drunk", etc... The two dueling guitars he has going on are actually really incredible. I think too little attention is paid to what a fine guitarist Chris is. He plays a very loose ax, but the emotion is unmistakable. What a great little song...

Bone Dry - Another wicked guitar intro. As opposed to 13 Other Dimensions, which was definitely keyboard driven, this album focuses allot more on guitar riffs and this is a fine example. GREAT lyrics! A wonderful, sad little alcoholic song. "Nothing really matters when you're this bone dry", amongst other very cool verses... A great structure to this song, too; I'm just waiting for that first song on this album that I don't feel so hot about, but it ain't coming! If you go back and read my old 13 Other Dimensions "1st listen" review, I was far more skeptical than I am on this album. This is some truly impressive shit that is a COMPLETELY different direction than PUSA or the original Giraffes! This song is a favorite...

Cypress Ghost - Very low, riff, like PUSA playing the Kentucky blues... It's another instrumental, and very in keeping with the evolution of the previous ones. There's a definite and very cool progression to these instrumentals, as the Giraffes descend further and further into the underworld... Things are getting much creepier at this level, as uncertain keyboards creep in. Very great mood piece. When will the bad songs come?!

Mess of Doubt - Psychedelic Back Porch! A smooth floating folk/blues songs. "These days, there's nothing glued down, my life is just a mess of doubt". A really fun bridge with sing-songy vocals! A very funny and easygoing song; very clear Chris vocals are the centerpiece. Cool stop/start thing, like "Whither Without You" from the 1st album!

Room Forever - Now here's a hot-lit rock and roll number, but with that melancholy edge from the rest of the album. No drums accentuate the pathos of this GREAT little number. A very bizarre spoken-word interlude that I'm not too hot on, but I will admit that I had to stop the song halfway through to get the phone, so many it just seems out of place because I interrupted the flow of the song. Aha! Here come the drums for the outro. A very bizarre and pieced-together song...

Burned by a Summer - Another Western number; the true purpose of this album is becoming very clear; it is truly, as Chris said, an album for rainy Sundays on the couch. I love the guitar bridge on this one; it is just great. Christ, what a sad song...

Headphone Sunset - Very soft, a collage of keyboard and ambient sounds. The title is actually amazingly apt; as Chris has often said, his solo music is best heard through headphones, and cranking this one up in your ears reveals a lower texture that is, ahem, much like a headphone sunset. To be honest, the album couldn't have ended on a more astounding note.

Well, this is only my first listen, and it's my custom to update on the occasion of my 30th, but I will say this - this album is a triumph for Chris Ballew.  Every album, he is coming into himself more and more as an artist. I urge you all to get this album as soon as possible!   - Mike Lyon

 

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