Music Review: Sound and Fury
I am not a fan of country music, as a general rule outside of a few exceptions (Sturgill being one of them). So it’s a bit ironic that the only two reviews I’ve written for this site are both in that concentric genre.
There’s no point in leaving my opinion on it until the end of the review. This record is a monster from start to finish, and it sounds nothing like his three preceding full-lengths.
“Ronin” opens with some radio segments and engine revving which immediately made me think of Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf. That’s a compliment but it’s also where the similarity ends because the riff coming out of the static sounds like it was lifted out of Pink Floyd or Chris Rea outtakes. I told you, this record sounds nothing like his previous.
At first listen I thought “Remember to Breathe” had a dingy romance to it like you’d find in a dive bar, but there’s a clear predator-prey feeling being put forth. Don’t misread this, there is no commendation of such an act to be found, but the lyrics are descriptive of someone doing something which is uncomfortable.
Right out that, we get “Sing Along” and “A Good Look.” The former belongs in the aforementioned dive, cigarette smoke, and cheap beer permeating deep into your clothes. There is an anime film for the entire record which is post-apocalyptically bonkers in a way only anime can do, and “Sing Along” was the first track released. “A Good Look” belongs in a 70’s car chase right from the get-go. The strings and drums are evocative of disco, but the keys and guitar keep it firmly a rock-n-roll track. It’s a song which makes you want to drive fast, and all the better if your car has only two doors and was made between ‘77 and ‘86.
The middle act of Sound and Fury begins with “Make Art Not Friends” and carries through “All Said and Done.” The keyboard and synth become the heartbeat, and the electric guitar licks throughout.
“All Said and Done” sounds the most like the prior Simpson albums, with an acoustic guitar and electric accenting each other. On every track Simpson’s voice never makes you feel like you’re listening to another artist, you just can’t believe the music is on one of his records.
“Last Man Standing” is two minutes and ten seconds of big-country, radio-friendly rock-n-roll before “Mercury in Retrograde” starts. If I had to guess I’d predict these two tracks to be follow up singles down the road.
Sound and Fury closes with "Fastest Horse in Town" bookending the record with wailing guitar, engines revving, and radio dials tuning. Even tuned as they are, the band has a real heaviness to it.
This is a record that will change the way people look at Sturgill Simpson, and I’d be shocked if his live shows don’t echo that. It’s a big record, with a massive sound. Every time I listen to it I like it even more.
When this record came out a friend of mine DM’ed me to offer the following advice to Sturgill,
“If I were advising him, I’d say play two sets — ten songs from the first three albums, a short break, then play this album in its entirety and just walk off what’s left of the stage”
I don’t see anything to disagree with.