The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Record Review

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, May 31, 2002, Music

Jay Bennett & Edward Burch

The Palace at 4am (Part 1) (Undertow) Some people may recognize Jay Bennett's name from his work as a multi-instrumentalist in Wilco. When Bennett split with Jeff Tweedy & Co. last year, he returned to writing songs with Edward Burch, a fellow Chicagoan who's worked with a few lesser-known bands in the Windy City. They had been writing together, off and on, for nearly seven years, but Bennett, because of his role in Wilco, could never devote the amount of time to the project he felt necessary. So now, Bennett and Burch have released The Palace at 4am, the first of what's supposed to be a minimum of three albums. It's difficult to pin down exactly what their sound is, because the album is so broad. But it can be broken down into a few Nick Lowe-style Brit-pop moments, some intriguingly Beatlesque excursions, and a couple of dark, minor-key ballads. The power pop tunes that lead the disc off are the most memorable, "Puzzle Heart" being a great slice of jangle, and "Whispers and Screams" turning into a driving, organ-accented romp. Also of interest is "No Church Tonight," a glistening snippet of psychedelia left over from the Billy Bragg/Wilco Mermaid Avenue sessions, which incorporates Woody Guthrie's lyrics with Bennett's trippy, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production style. At nearly 70 minutes, The Palace at 4am could've shaved down a couple of less memorable tunes, but Bennett and Burch are an obviously talented duo, and it will be interesting to follow them on whatever musical road they decide to travel next. (Jay Bennett & Edward Burch play Stubb's inside, Monday, June 3.)


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