Constellations – Southern Gothic

January 01, 1970

(Virgin)

 

www.virginrecords.com

 

The
idea of the Constellations, a studio project that subsequently became an
eight-member band, is to reflect how rock, funk, electro and hip-hop supposedly
mingle in Atlanta’s
after-hours clubs. Southern Gothic‘s
opening track, “Setback,” makes a strong case for the concept,
layering pristine synth-pop riffs atop a dirty blues-rock shuffle as frontman
Elijah Jones trades vocals with both male and female backup singers. But this
is a song that doesn’t just define the rest of the album; it also overshadows
it.

 

Supervised
by Gnarls Barkley producer Ben H. Allen, Southern
Gothic
rarely rises to level of its influences, one of whom is even named
in a song title: “Step Right Up (A Tribute to Tom Waits).” A few
tracks are boosted by guest stars (Cee-Lo on “Love Is A Murder,”
Asher Roth on “We’re Here To Save The Day”), but such cameos are not
enough to salvage Jones’s routine delivery and tired lyrics. The latter are
pitched somewhere between a mid-’70s Dylan/Jagger imitator (“All these
cocaine vultures… with their complicated hairdos”) and the moral
philosophy of Conan the Barbarian (“If you really want to live, you gotta
be ready to die”).

 

Southern Gothic is a new version of a
2008 indie release, polished for major-label release. Maybe Virgin should have waited
until the full band was ready to record, providing ensemble grooves that might
make Jones’ paeans to hookers and druggies sound like stories from the real
world rather than just his record collection.

 

Standout Tracks: “Setback” MARK JENKINS

 

 

 

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