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Son Volt: Okemah And The Melody Of Riot

Son Volt: Okemah And The Melody Of Riot

Label:Transmit Sound/Legacy
Release Date:2005

By Dennis Rozanski | Posted 8/24/2005

Son Volt has volcanically re-erupted after lying dormant since 1998’s Wide Swing Tremolo, but some things have changed. Founding frontman Jay Farrar is no longer gripped with an untamed sense of melancholy or poetic abstractness. He’s pissed—life in the post-Tremolo world has his hackles up. Okemah and the Melody of Riot proclaims it in title. The lyrics vent it. The guitars scream it. And the ghost of Woody Guthrie blesses it, howling a spirit of protest into Farrar’s ear.

In the midst of the guitar storm is talk of upset and uprising. “Jet Pilot” and “Endless War” spit their anti-Bush venom pointedly while “Ipecac” diffusely stews. Each lyrical barb arrives with a monstrous hook—the feral riff in “6 String Belief,” the power revs through “Atmosphere,” or cooed chorus cycling within “Who.” And “Afterglow 61” skirts all issues simply to rock in honor of Leadbelly and Bob Dylan. Away from the guitar squalls and drum crashes, Farrar establishes a perfect trance in “Medication,” where mystical incantations levitate over a pseudo-sitar that shoots tendrils to numb the brain. It’s a whole new way of working his juju.

Somewhere up on high, ol’ Woody is pumpin’ that fist in envious approval—and not only of Son Volt’s ability to rock ferociously, far beyond any distant-era folkie dreams. Farrar transmits the sound of the shit hitting the fan, and makes it all so hummably melodic, too.

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