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Run Aground

 

CocoRosie: Noah's Ark

Touch & Go, 2005

Rating: 2.7

 

Posted: October 3, 2005

By Peter Landwehr

CocoRosie's first album, La Maison De Mon RÍve, was a bizarre little gem. The two Casady sisters warbled together over a minimalist combination of acoustic instruments and samples of birdsong, creaking swings, bleeps and beatboxing, and managed to create an album excellent for late nights alone in your local equivalent of a Parisian cafe. Noah's Ark, the duo's followup, provides more of the same, but the pair overextend themselves often enough to appear to be posturing, costing them some of their charm.

On "Jesus Loves Me" from La Maison De Mon RÍve, the duo offered a lo-fi rendition of an old spiritual, including the N-word from the original, hoping to make people think about contradictions and complements in Christianity. This theme of making the listener find the negative in "beautiful" things and the beautiful in the disturbing runs throughout Noah's Ark.

Just as the cover art depicting unicorns having sex is excessive, so too is the music. Thus "Beautiful Boyz" presents an image of prison as a gay paradise, and the lovely jazz choruses of "Apocalypse" are matched against ironic (yet sincerely delivered) lyrics like "And let's all say a prayer / to Walter Disney and Mike Tyson" and "God must have been color blind / If I made the world it would all be white".

The problem is that CocoRosie's observations aren't insightful enough to warrant the obtuse presentation. While the bluesy duet describing a fight in Brooklyn on "South 2nd" works well both musically and as a statement, songs like "Bear Hides & Buffalo" wander through difficult lyrics and strange samples as the sisters try to wax profound. Their original freak-folk was as accessible as much of this album is puzzling.

CocoRosie can still make beautiful music, and "Noah's Ark", the lead single, is an excellent example, differing from the rest of the album in that it is an entirely sincere religious song that combines Billie Holiday-esque rap with beatboxing and soprano singing better than anyone has a right to expect. "Bisonours" and the largely instrumental "Brazillian Sun" both recall the sisters' previous album, and demonstrate that they don't want to spend the entire album experimenting. While the Casaday sisters have broadened their sound (supported by guests such as Devandra Barnhardt, Antony and French beatboxer Spleen), they've not yet mastered their expanded palette.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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