The cons of this album can’t possibly be covered in anything less than a dissertation, so here’s the abstract: Perfect Abandon is the worst. Primarily steeped in the narrative folk artist tradition, Tom Brosseau’s latest LP is produced by John Parish and Ali Chant. Monotone in delivery, intention and content, Brosseau inspires the desire to plunge overboard at any cost to escape this boring, empty album.
Beginning with “Hard Luck Boy,” it’s difficult to believe that a certain someone is genuine, especially someone who enshrines their “hard luck” story within on-the-nose spoken lines delivered sans any inflection: “Tommy, where is your mommy? / Well that’s how it all happened / All those years ago when I was just a boy / and to this day I’ve never seen my mother. / I’m a hard luck boy.” “Take Fountain” churns out the line, “Would behoove you and your baby / to wear your cleats.” What does that even mean? Brosseau can have bonus points for the vocabulary word ‘behoove,’ but gets docked 100 for the incoherence of the whole line.
Performing tricks with time, Brosseau transforms mere minutes into painful hours, as most songs feature entry-level, repetitive guitar patterns and Brosseau’s patented speak-singing with lots of repeated pitches. “Take Fountain” exemplifies the magic of mindless repetition — a simple, hill billy guitar riff repeats so many times that skipping to any part of the track in any order yields sounds that are exactly the same. Emotionally, this album is as flatline as the monotone melody/vocal lines and ad nauseam repetition. Not usually what music strives for. At least not good music.
At two points, it seems Brosseau forays into something different vocally. During “Tell Me Lord,” the word, ‘moon,’ warrants a dramatic slide into the upper, airier tones of Brosseau’s range, sustaining the pitch beyond what is warranted. This high, drawn out ‘mooooooooooooon’ is supposed to be meaningful, but it’s comical, like a baby wolf howling. The 6+ minute snoozer, “Wholesome Pillars” has Brosseau singing full-bodied, with pitch, for just a couple seconds like a 1950’s country front man. Sadly, it doesn’t last and doesn’t appear anywhere else on the record.
The most tolerable tracks — on the sorry occasion one gets trapped in a room for days with only this album — include “My Sweetest Friends” and “Goodbye, Empire Builder.” These include a two-piece drum kit (snare and hi-hat) and upright bass to spice things up just a tad. “Empire Builder” is a guitar feature, and the most musical track on the album. Not that “Empire Builder” deserves to be sought out either, but it’s delightful next to the rest of this content. Switching into a minor key with arpeggiated patterns reminiscent of something out of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, it’s a hint that at least the guitar has a little life left on this otherwise completely flatline record.
Perfect Abandon is not satisfying at all; there’s nothing emotional about it. It’s super simple, not in the way some artists effectively use the technique to bare their souls, but in a way that seems like Brosseau doesn’t have any more to offer. The spoken, sing-songy storytelling, which comprises most of this album, tells stories which aren’t interesting. Overall, avoid Perfect Abandon.