Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean (Album Review)
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
It’s been over three years since Sam Beam, better known as forward-thinking folkster Iron & Wine, released the acclaimed The Shepherd’s Dog. That’s not to say that between then and this month’s Kiss Each Other Clean hasn’t been a productive time for the Texan. An EP, a live album, and a ‘best of’ compilation have kept fans distracted while KEOC was being compiled, Beam’s first since release leaving the Sub Pop imprint.
The album also marks a slight change to the Iron & Wine sound. Those hoping for a healthy beard-length to folk song ratio will be disappointed, as Beam takes things in an altogether more radio-friendly direction. “It’s more of a focused pop record,” he explains in a recent interview, “It sounds like the music people heard in their parent’s car growing up”. Focused maybe, but on first listen this translates as ‘over-produced’, and further run-throughs don’t prove otherwise. Peppered with saxophone licks and smooth grooves, the album regularly veers off in a worryingly ‘yacht-rock’ direction. The MOR balladry of Walking far From Home and the inoffensive saccharine of single Tree by the River work hard to offset more creative highlights such as Monkeys Uptown and the kalimba-led Rabbit Will Run. Half Moon waters down the lethargic, breezy nature of JJ Cale, while Godless Brother in Love is almost unlistenable – the soundtrack to a breakup in a straight-to-DVD romance.
His production may have taken aim at the FM playlists, but Beam’s skill with a lyric is still very much in evidence: “He’s an emancipated punk and he can dance/but he’s got a hole in the pocket of his pants/must be a symptom of outstanding circumstances” he sings on Me and Lazarus.
Where the folk-fusion crossovers of The Shepherd’s Dog set Beam apart from his contemporaries, disappointingly the same can’t be said for the sickly-slick Kiss Each Other Clean: ‘clean’ being the operative word here.