Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone

January 01, 1970

(Kerouac
Films/Atlantic)

 

www.kerouacfilms.com

 

Eleven
years after Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote melodies for Woody Guthrie, Son Volt’s
Jay Farrar and Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard take a shot at another
mid-20th-century American-bohemian bard, Jack Kerouac. One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Music from Kerouac’s Big Sur doesn’t
work as well as Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid
Avenue
, for one simple reason: Kerouac didn’t write lyrics.

 

These
12 tracks aren’t recitations, but neither are they especially musical. Taken
from Kerouac’s novel, Big
Sur
, the words lack the rhythm to fully support a melody.
Mostly written by Farrar, the resulting songs are respectable, but tend to be
stiff and dry. The highlight is the title track, the only one composed by
Gibbard alone; it starts as a weary march, like most of the other tunes, but
ascends sweetly.

 

The
liner notes include a line from the man himself: “the terrible horror of
this gruesome coast.” Taking a cue from that remark, Farrar and Gibbard
might have constructed something darker and more unexpected. Plenty of American
rockers, from Willie Alexander to Rites of Spring, have taken inspiration from
Kerouac without feeling required to produce sepia-toned Americana. And the 1997 collection Kerouac – kicks joy darkness, which
featured jazz, rock, noize and experimental interpretations from Morphine, Jeff
Buckley, Michael Stipe, John Cale, Lydia Lunch and others, was well-received by
the public and critics alike.

 

But
Farrar and Gibbard stick with folk, blues, and country, heavy on the pedal
steel. Even when it works, as on “California Zephyr” and “These
Roads Don’t Move,” One Fast Move or
I’m Gone
seems an awfully conservative tribute to the beat novelist’s
revolutionary howl.

 

Standout Tracks: “One Fast Move or
I’m Gone,” “These Roads Don’t Move” MARK JENKINS

 

 

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