About Halfway to the Top
Ownerless, the third release from country-tinged rockers Everest, draws plentifully from the mineral-fresh wells of Joe Walsh, The Flying Burrito Brothers and heirs apparent like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, but never bothers to dig for an underground vein of its own. Though there’s no arguing lead vocalist Russell Pollard intently feels everything he’s singing, there’s a certain oomph, credulity—call it fire in the belly—missing from the songs’ content, perhaps arising from a set list sounding too safe, too often. The themes and melodies just aren’t focused and fully-formed enough to push the album’s condition beyond a standard, middling result.
Tracks like “Letter” and the album’s ghostly opening cut, “Rapture,” show a lot of promise, with the former swaying like a more threatening revision of Elvis’ “Blue Moon.” Its shuffling, cocktail drumming and feather-edged choir are the perfect foil for Pollard’s silky, pompadoured delivery. “Nothing’s funny, nothing’s sad / When you feel so empty inside,” he empathizes. Apparently the break-up was rough on all parties involved. Still, it’s nothing a little kiss-and-makeup missive can’t fix. “I wrote a letter / Stuck it under your door,” croons Russel to his heartsick chick.
More frequently than not, though, Ownerless comes off kind of secondhand, lacking the nuances necessary for a more flesh-and-blood, personal work. The moods, settings and surfaces are well in place, but where are the quickening and pointed lyrics, the indelible choruses—the heart and soul? “Give a Little” and “Hungry Ghost” are prime examples of sounding, but not feeling the part. The former sets off on an assuring autumnal path, then head fakes its listener into a jarring, ascending staircase chant. Then “Hungry Ghost” fizzles with a languishing sing-song vocal, dedicated, it seems, to an undead and apparently hungry mistress who has a way of recurring, fleetingly, throughout the album. No offense to our nibblesome banshee babe, but it’s common knowledge Ghostbusters‘ Slimer is the world’s indisputable hungry ghost.
Ultimately, too many nails of mediocrity slam the pine coffin shut. The standard-issue “Games” presents no new angle on the troubled relationship song, and the album’s acquiescent namesake track, “Ownerless,” keys into a Lennon-esque humanistic worldview, save all the incisive piety and elegance. Everest, my friends, it’s fair to say you’ve gained little ground in Ownerless—but another day, another try. My advice would be the same as to Sir Edmund Hillary: “Just keep climbing.”