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Sounds of Eden
Our Time In Eden - 10,000 Maniacs
Member Name: cyberem78
Our Time In Eden - 10,000 Maniacs
Advantages: Creative, intelligent, emotiona songs.
10,000 Maniacs were a American 'alternative' rock group fronted by sassy Natalie Merchant. Formed in 1981 Merchant was the singer until 1992. This is the last album to feature her as lead vocalist. Merchant's voice is very distinctive and is one of the key feature's of the group's work. She has a vibrant, throaty frog-burping style. Her accent is difficult to distinguish - she avoids that generic mid-western style that so many artists assume - and she has a curious way of pronouncing certain vowel sounds. She also seems to have a subtle speech impediment whilst singing - an inability to pronounce her 'r's', which is quite unique and gives the effect of childlike mouthing.
In my experience of hearing this album as well as the group's breakthrough album 'In My Tribe' I have found the nature of their music to be a blend of intelligent, poetic, politically informed lyrics and colourful, creative, cleverly structured rock music. This particular album is steeped in ideas regarding religion and human existence. The range of musical styles involved include a dreamy romanticism to an intimidating, dark and heavy rock.
There are thirteen tracks on the album. We start with 'Noah's Dove' which has a distinct, slightly wisftful piano melody that drives the sound. Merchant sounds relaxed and her presence is soothing. The title refers to how she sees her lover and how his 'pure eyes' remind her of this biblical bird. The lyrics are incredibly beautiful and heartfelt.
'These are days' is a more upbeat number, having an upbeat summery style and brisk rhythm. Merchant sings in a higher key and her voice sounds lighter and brighter. A layered vocal also boosts the mood. The lyrics refer to good times and happiness. It's definately a feel good track.
'Eden' is a beautiful, dreamy track. The music has a watery feel, an onward flow that feels very natural and peacful. The lyrics are almost abstract but are a blend of expressions and phrases which conjure up a vision of a heavenly garden.
'Few an Far Between' is a bouncy, fast paced track. Although very boistrous and lively the melody is not particularly engaging and the lyrics are a little vague. It is possibly a rant against a lover or a self-admonishing song.
'Stockton Gala Days' and 'Gold Rush Brides' are similar tracks which vie for superiority. The first song sees a trip down Memory Lane to an adyllic childhood where the little girls were affected by "wildflower fever". The melody is very catchy and affecting. The latter song is more morose in tone and whislt there is an allusion to feminity again it is definately more mature in nature.
'Jezebel' is a dramatic track that has an almost theatrical style. The verses are tight and shadowy, Merchant whispering a morose lyric about pain and suffering. She compares herself to a "bed of blackened coal" at one point. The chorus breaks out as a mad release of emotion. The figure in the track is very damaged and the music, lyrics and vocal performance do a great job in conveying this.
'How You've Grown' is a gentle, folky track that features Merchant and a piano until mid-track. It reminds me of artists like Delta Goodrem. The lyrics are rather self-indulgent and refer to childhood memories.
'Candy Everybody Wants' is an oddly upbeat song that seems to throw a v-sign to the secret evil nature in mankind. The bouyant style of the music is incongruent with the sarcastic lyrics which attack the desire of men to indulge in nastiness and cruelty. A great live duet version of this was recorded with REM singer Michael Stipe.
'Tolerance' is a dark, moody track charting how it feels to be overtaken by violence and what the long term results of abuse really is.
'Circle Dream' is perhaps the weakest track on the album. Folk-like in nature this is like a throwback to Joni Mitchell's era except the song offers nothing new or exciting. The lyrics are repetitive and hypnotic with the hookline: "I dreamed of a circle" becoming slightly annoying rather than calming.
'If you intend' is an upbeat track which has a sense of urgency in the quick pace and Merchant's pleading tone. The lyrics are intended to impel action and positivity in listeners.
'I'm not the man' is a rather gloomy ending to what overall is a beautiful, flowery album. The theme of this epic track is false imprisonment and the terrible implications of being accused of murder. Obviously, this rather upsetting track and it is not subtle in it's message. The main character in the song says "I wait on the row for the man to test the rope that he'll slip around my throat...". Of course, this is typical 10,000 Maniac's territory and the song is executed (pardon the pun) very well.
Overall this is a brilliant album that has been one of my favourites for years. For those new to the group Merchant's amazing, distinctive voice may take some getting used to but you may, like I did, find yourself entranced by her curious mannerisms and performance quirks. This album provides an abundance of ideas and themes combined with well-written and emotionally driven music. An excellent production and an outstanding farewell performance by Natalie Merchant.
Summary: A beautiful, thought-provoking album.