The Spirit Bludgeons
Langhorne Slim, aka Sean Scolnick, from the Philadelphia suburb of Langhorne, P.a., has released his second album with accompanying band, the Law. Titled The Spirit Moves, Scolnick claims “I don’t want to tame myself. I want to be wild. If I can continue to refine the wildness but never suffocate or tame it, then I’m on the right path.” Langhorne Slim is perhaps on the right path with “wild.” But he’s certainly the wrong zookeeper for the nuance needed to tame, as The Spirit Moves is overgrown with wild to the detriment of all involved.
Sean Scolnick adds another entry to a growing list of generic male voices now so ubiquitous across all genres, there’s little to distinguish between them. Sometimes he attempts to wander outside the box, such as a broader delivery in the intro of “Strongman,” but it’s still nearly speak-singing with the occasional puppy growl for emphasis. “Strangers” demonstrates more of a rock-style delivery, but in the exuberance of the up-tempo stomp, Scolnick’s words are further swallowed.
“I came for passion, I came from truth,” are uttered like he scrunched up his face to pinch out the words, lacking any additional musical skills to demonstrate passion. The result is a bit laughable and an entire album that lacks real emotional pull. Melodically, lines are delivered primarily in monotone succession with a tendency to mince words at the end of phrases so they are hard to decipher, as in “Wolves,” where it takes three listens to discern Scolnick claims he is “too gentle” to live with wolves.
It’s hard to know what to make of the album musically since many tracks, especially when they involve electric instruments, devolve into an unintelligible mess of sound. It’s like it all just got away from musicians who aren’t quite in control, their instruments getting the better of them. This kind of wild is not flattering. “Southern Bells,” for example, may have a baritone saxophone in the mix, but it’s hard to pick out any one sound for sure. The track also refuses to wander too far away from strong beats, perhaps for fear of getting lost.
The drumming (Malachi DeLorenzo) is either entry-level downbeat rhythm mongering or all the restraint of a teenage garage rocker who forgets they have bandmates. “Wolves” and “Whisperin’” both rely on snare drum rim shots like a machine all the way through and the plodding snare on songs like “Bring You My Love” devolves into a deafening takeover fill, ala the teenager who’s just recklessly hitting things. To be fair, the electric guitar is complicit in this instance as well. DeLorenzo’s drumming is suffocating; he’s shackled to the rhythm conventions of elementary school, seriously undermining any conveyance of “wild.”
Probably the strongest track on the album is “Spirit Moves.” A mariachi-inspired trumpet line, a galloping rhythm section and David Moore’s dexterous banjo demonstrates this variety of country/folk/rock done well. Granted, it has all the emotional nuance of a steamroller, and by the end it’s just a wall of sound. Some other bright spots include the pleasant piano stylings of Moore on tracks such as the loud, ‘60s-inspired “Put It Together” and muted trombone fills on “Bring You My Love.” Acoustic-driven tracks such as “Meet Again,” “Changes” or “Airplane” are a welcome breath of fresh air spotted throughout the album, as is Jeff Ratner’s bass, when it can be heard.
Sure, the spirit can move and inhabit those inspired by its power, but Langhorne Slim’s The Spirit Moves goes a bit too far and bludgeons listeners. A combination of lackluster vocals, out of control drumming and lack of restraint completely buries some of the nicer, quieter acoustic tunes and nuances this album perhaps should have strived to highlight. Or at least Langhorne Slim should consider unplugging. This spirit is more likely to drive people right off a cliff. Hey, it’s rough out in the wild.