Pomegranates are a delicious fruit, but difficult to conquer.
Pomegranates are a solid band, but difficult to compare to.
Pomegranate is an interesting album by alternative rapper Astronautalis, aka Andy Bothwell, but difficult to classify.
Bothwell’s 2008 release falls somewhere in between WHY? and the Rhymesayers/Doomtree family. As a fan of both camps, I should be delighted by it… right?
But in the light of an album like the one that follows, the tremendous This is Our Science, Pomegranate is a try hard. Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t contain some goodies, no – opener “The Wondersmith and His Sons” has become one of Astronautalis’ live staples and a consistent crowd pleaser. So too has “The Trouble Hunters.”
What I’ll take away from this record though, is the guest appearances. Pomegranate’s clutch collabos include Sarah Jaffe’s gorgeous vocals on “17 Summers” and “Two Years Before the Mast” and P.O.S. on the closer “The Story of My Life.”
While I enjoy the soundscapes, including the chirping on “An Episode of Sparrows,” and Bothwell’s always impeccable lyricism throughout, I feel the same about Pomegranate as I do about its predecessors You and Yer Good Ideas (2003) and The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theatres (2006): all three are Andy’s attempts at finding his sound. There are sweeping visions of brilliance throughout, but all culminate with his latest, This is Our Science.
This work in progress is most evident on a song like “The Most Important Track on the Album,” which is 2 minutes and 45 seconds of silence. I appreciate the symbolism and the sentiments: allowing room for the album to breathe, learning when to be quiet, etc. I just feel like it’s an idea that could have been better executed. Elsewhere, songs like “My Old Man’s Badge” and “Mr. Blessington’s Imperialist Plot,” each centered around a particular sound that remains mostly static throughout (in the “stasis” sense of the word, that is), again feel like half-formed ideas.
This project continues to reveal to me the idea of “You can’t go home again.” When a band or group, or in this case, a rapper, grows as an artist and consistently releases better, more refined works, it’s so difficult to listen to a back catalog that we once felt was the peak of their discography.
In other words, This is Our Science has spoiled me rotten.
From Pomegranate, this is “The Wondersmith and His Sons” –
Standout tracks: “17 Summers,” “The Trouble Hunters” and “The Story of My Life” – and that piano against the beat on “The Case of William Smith” is shut-yer-mouth good.
Weakest track: Though the concept of “The Most Important Track on the Album” is quaint, couldn’t it have been shortened and contained within another song to make it more effective?