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The Potato Eaters

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Album Review

It's no accident that so many of the songs on the first album by the Potato Eaters are about death, transcendence, and ghosts; the members of this band had all played with Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman, and most of these songs were written just after his shocking death. The title of the best song here, "As You Are Now We Once Were," comes from the sign over a Roman catacomb that Potato Eaters bassist and lyricist Ben Guy had visited with Snakefinger the day before he died. It would seem from that description that these songs would all be rather morbid, but they aren't — many have a spooky, ethereal atmosphere, but there are relieved by dexterous playing and splendid vocal performances. The star of the former is David Phillips, whose tasteful Hawaiian and pedal steel guitar shine on every track. The vocal leads are mostly handled by the marvelously expressive Laurie Amal, who injects hints of country and folk into many cuts. On "The Crowning," she takes mysterious lyrics that might be about vampirism and might be about date rape and delivers a gripping performance. While the mood throughout the album is mystical, the music varies from folkish, almost jazzy numbers to driving rock. The group dynamic here is extraordinary, with focused interplay that gets the most out of every cut. The first album from the Potato Eaters was one of the finest records of 1990, one that was unfortunately lost in the blizzard of overhyped commercial rock from artists with far less talent and subtlety.

The Potato Eaters, The Potato Eaters
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