Magnolia Electric Company: What Comes After the Blues (Secretly Canadian)

His combination folk-blues-post-post-modernism (Will Oldham gets the distinction of post-post-post-modernism, because he means it less than Molina) is nothing less than devastating, even on the albums about which I am less than enthusiastic.

To a self professed Jason Molina maniac, a new album by the man late of the Songs: Ohia moniker—now recording as Magnolia Electric Company—is also known as Excitement Time.

A Molina maniac like myself can rattle off dozens of Molina’s songs that are simply better than anything else out there. His combination folk-blues-post-post-modernism (Will Oldham gets the distinction of post-post-post-modernism, because he means it less than Molina) is nothing less than devastating, even on the albums about which I am less than enthusiastic.

So what happened on What Comes After the Blues that makes it just a little less devastating than any other album in a Molina maniac’s discography (not counting the dread-inspiring Impala)? The songs are still there. “Northstar Blues” lumbers along like the best of his work. His tenor sounds as clear and strong as ever. The lyrics are there. He’s still more capable than Aimee Mann at tossing off cryptic beauty between breaths of carbon monoxide.

But something hits this Molina maniac below the belt. There’s something missing. Molina retired Songs: Ohia and started a bar band called Magnolia Electric Company. The self-titled debut was a piece of fireworks at the state fair. Rusty guitars and crazy Neil Young impressions, and the gorgeous “Farewell Transmission.” He sang about work and play and sex and the spiritual war between the three.

On What Comes After the Blues, Molina sounds better than ever. He sings better than Antony of Antony and the Johnsons without all the goddamned diva warbling. It’s just that, this time, it doesn’t work. Something was lost in the transition. Of the mere eight songs, just three of them are standouts, destined for iPods of cool people everywhere: “Northstar Blues,” “Hammer Down,” and “I Can not Have Seen the Light.”

The other five are destined for the recycle bin. “Night Shift Lullaby” is a song written and performed by Jennie Benford and, much like the guest appearances on Magnolia Electric Company’s debut—the awful “Old Black Hen,” the barely bearable “Peoria Lunch Box Blues”—will be skipped over by anyone who purchases this CD. The problem with all this, as you’ve no doubt noticed, is that I don’t want to talk about What Came After the Blues. I’ve already forgotten it. I’m going to listen to The Lioness. |Jon Warren


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