Work and Sleep (Mix-O-Rama)
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Nov. 21, 2003
The BreathersWork and Sleep (Mix-o-Rama) "Mundane" is seldom intended as a compliment. Generally translated as "boring," strictly defined it means "everyday." Thus it's an apt description of the Breathers' debut Work and Sleep: rich with day-to-day minutiae, whether a weary waitress wishing for a better life, a passing lightning storm, or a couple drinking Boone's on their front porch. Singer Claire Hamilton spins these Carveresque yarns in a voice that can be Chrissie Hynde coy or Neko Case soulful, without fully belonging to either rock or country. Similarly, her cohorts, Landis Armstrong (guitars), Javier Dura (bass), and Eldridge Goins (drums/guitars), navigate the gnarled web of roots with professionalism and precision. They're down and dirty on "Waitress Lounge," bluesy angry on "Loves Me Loves Me Not," and loungy and a little sad on "We Gave in Today," one of those songs that always sounds perfect in an empty bar at 1:45am. The countrified "Sweet Morning" may in fact describe that very (and very anonymous) bar, as well as the waitress responsible for locking up after last call. Hamilton's intention to "wash out the night" from her smoke-drenched hair is indicative of both the Breathers' expert eye for detail and impressive ability to infuse even the most, yes, mundane situation with an earthiness that's impossible to fake. They make the nuts and bolts of daily life romantic by not romanticizing them at all.