Review – End of the Day 3

Review – “End of the Day”. Brett Campbell. Austin Chronicle Feb. 10, 1989, p35(1).

Maybe they should have changed their name again. Zeitgeist, one of Austin’s best bands, cleverly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump by renaming themselves The Reivers. (The Minnesota lawsuit “explanation” must have been a smokescreen.) The first Reivers album, Saturday, was twice as good as Translate Slowly – and that album was about twice as good as most other bands’. But despite some impressive moments, this record fails to continue the ascent.

End of the Day contains many of the elements we’re coming to recognize as Reivers’ trademarks: lovely, loose Logacre/Croslin harmonies, English grad student literary references (“Discontent of Winter” is this album’s “Araby” or “Sound and the Fury”), strong supporting guitar structures. And it even exhibits some improvements. Songwriter John Croslin’s lead vocals seem much stronger and upfront, a needed improvement over his previous gruff mutters. (Exception: his melody line is buried into incomprehensibility on “Truth To Tell.”) The lyrics extend into interesting narrative on “Star Telegram,” “End of the Day” and others. Even on Saturday, Croslin too often seemed content with a minimal poetic symbolism, which, though evocative, couldn’t match the depth of the surrounding music.

But that music was much more urgent, even desperate, than the more laid-back landscapes of End of the Day. While the languid accompaniment fits the lyrics’ lazy afternons and sunsets, it lacks the dazzling energy that fueled Saturday,a nd that contrasted so effectively witht eh unabashedly pretty harmonies and vocal elegance that lit up songs like “Saturday” and the sublime “In Your Eyes.” None of the songs stick in the ear or the mind, they just sort of drift by, unpowered by strong inspiration, maybe because the viewpoint in most is a little more detached (in places, even indifferent) than the more personal poetry of the last record. The result, to these ears at least, is a well-crafted and interesting album – but not a compelling one.

Nevertheless, it does represent some progress for the Reivers, and in that sense is almost as welcome as another Saturday would have been. The semi-countrified “Almost Home,” which shit-kicks off side 2, is one of their songs ever,a nd might even get thema college radio hit. “Star Telegram’s” nostalgic imagery is as evocative as anything the band has done. And the title song, though sharing the contemplative theme of the rest of the album, overcomes the musical lassitude that trips up most of the other songs. Also, even if the melodies don’t seem as strong or complete as those on Saturday, the songs on End of the Day are more varied in structure than on previous albums.

That’s why, even if this is the group’s weakest album, it’s still promising, because it shows them trying to expand their boundaries. Consumers seeking low key Reivers may want to check out End of the Day, but I’m looking toward the morning after. As the lady said, “Tomorrow is another day.” And they could always try changing their name again.