Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
Credit where credit is due, Sturgill Simpson is a man determined to carve his own path. He won the grammy for best country album, and a nomination for best album outright, ironically enough when he moved away from his more traditional country roots. The brilliant rhythm and blues of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth came completely out of left field and brought Simpson far reaching attention and acclaim, as well as bringing fresh ears to country as a whole. His new record however eschews the genre entirely. Picture instead someone kidnapping ZZ Top, force-feeding them a pick’n’mix of assorted pills, and hauling them up atop the Doof Wagon from Mad Max: Fury Road – then you’ll have a pretty clear impression of Sturgill’s new release. No fucks given whatsoever.
On the face of it this new album seems like a thrilling notion. Sadly however, beneath the unquestionably badass cover art lies a deeply questionable record. The issue predominantly lies with the production. Sound & Fury certainly does what it says on the tin, but often at the cost of melody and musicality. The fuzzy wall of sound on ‘Fastest Horse in Town’ and the hectic cluttered arrangement of ‘A Good Look’ are testament to the fact that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Throughout the record Sturgill’s vocals are generally too low in the mix and there’s scarcely a memorable hook to be found either. The flow of the record, or rather lack thereof, also leaves a lot to be desired. It often plays like one continuous piece, but rather than one track flowing into the next they instead seem to crash haphazardly into one another. Less a sweeping musical tapestry, more a few stray pieces of wreckage fused together after a high speed collision.
All this comes as a real shame as the shaky structure was built upon some solid foundations. Opening instrumental ‘Ronin’ features some great guitar work, likewise the solo on ‘All Said And Done’. From the demented funk of ‘Sing Along’, to the frenetic rock’n’roll of ‘Last Man Standing’, to the synth driven ‘Make Art Not War’, there is certainly no shortage of good ideas. Ones that could have been the makings of Simpson’s best record yet had they been properly developed. Alas it was not to be. I can greatly appreciate Sturgill Simpson’s intentions and ambitions with Sound & Fury, but not his execution of them this time around.