Sir Richard Bishop CD reviewed by Jeff Mooridian Jr.
Jun 23, 2009, 17:24
SIR RICHARD BISHOP The Freak of Araby CD/LP
The Freak of Slightly Arab-ish is more like it. Far be it for me to judge a "spiritual journey"—unless of course it's performed in full view of the immense public "eye." Then, well...
According to Sir Richard Bishop's press kit, TFOA is an attempt at incorporating Bishop's own Lebanese roots into western music (or something). Ok, sounds good. The danger in these types of public spiritual endeavors though, is self-indulgence and the risk of alienating a public who is only asking: "Are you taking me with you or not?" The quest-ion follows then: does SRB let us join him?
Ye old record of Sir Richard Bishop features typically adept technical skill—an agile insouciance within the form, such as it is, and Sun City Girls trademark trans-cultural wonder (sorta). This has to be pointed out and underlined. Props, ok?
That being said, I don't find this record to be a good listen. Not only does he not take us with him on this excursion of his, he doesn't even try to go anywhere. The word is DULL folks. There's something downright dilettantish about these hummus-western-surf riffs. Where is the Lebanese influence here? The record smacks of 1st-tier exploration; it lacks idiosyncrasies and what ideas there are on TFOA, they're not imaginatively realized.
Also, the sound of the guitar is annoyingly mid-rangey and, in general, the tone sounds as shallow as the overall record (digital symptoms?). This is especially underscored when the album gets deeper into itself on its best track, "Blood-Stained Sands." Finally there is an emotional payoff. It's notable that the guitar is replaced by horn(s) here. And I know SRB is unto a new thing with this project but one thing enjoyable about SCGs (c'mon—comparisons are inevitable), which is absent on this record, were the lyrics and vocals. They would at least stir or even provoke, whether good or bad. Perhaps it's a needed element, more than SRB realizes.
In the end this record comes across like a recording of a wedding band trying to appease two cultures in a (Mid)east-meets-west type betrothal (and failing to fully incorporate the more foreign of the two): it's fine, sometimes interesting but ultimately becomes ersatz-y background music.
I think SRB is a flatly sane choice for this type of thing but more time with the subject matter please! Saying ain't doing. [Drag City]
-Jeff Mooridian Jr.