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The Wind at Four to Fly

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Album Review

In weak or cynical moments, one might be forgiven for failing to see a meaningful difference between the "jam band" movement of today and the prog rock movement of the 1970s. Bands from both traditions are characterized by one predominant characteristic: a constitutional incapability to shut up. And in a live setting — which is where both types of group really shine — that tendency is only accentuated. But one thing that definitely sets the two genres apart is sense of humor, which jam bands tend to have and prog rockers almost never do. Disco Biscuits are a jam band with a few proggy tendencies but both a redeeming sense of humor and a generally lighthearted (rather than portentous) approach that makes their music sound less bloated than it often actually is. On this 12-track, two-disc live set, more than half of the songs clock in at over 11 minutes; one lasts just barely under half an hour. To those who don't come to the party nicely toasted, this will be (and probably should be) a daunting fact. And to be sure, there are some real throwaway moments here: "Sweating Bullets" (which, at eight minutes long, is relatively restrained) consists mainly of aimless noodling, and the 30-minute magnum opus "Basis for a Day" would have probably been twice as good if it were a third as long. But the funky and episodically arranged "Wet" works very nicely despite its length, as does the jazzy "Little Shimmy in a Conga Line." "Voices Insane" is lovely, but would again have benefited from a little judicious editing. On the other hand, this is a live album, and this is a jam band. Those whose tastes run in both of those directions will be sure to enjoy.


Formed: 1995 in Pennsylvania

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A jam band active since 1995, the Disco Biscuits play a distinct blend of rock, techno, jazz, soul, blues, and classical music that quickly took them to the upper echelon of the jam-roots-groove scene. Jon "The Barber" Gutwillig, Marc Brownstein, Sam Altman, and Aron Magner met on the University of Pennsylvania campus and formed the Disco Biscuits there in late 1995. They started out with frat party gigs all over Philly, but quickly moved to the nightclub scene. In 1996 they released their indie...
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The Wind at Four to Fly, The Disco Biscuits
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