The Gourds

Noble Creatures (Yep Roc)

Texas Platters

The Gourds

Noble Creatures (Yep Roc)

With the release of their ninth studio album in 10 years, and first for Yep Roc, the Gourds have hit a rewarding midlife crisis. Noble Creatures ponders both domestic yearning and ribald wandering, tempering contentment with want and regret with disillusion, all woven across a typical Gourdian knot of oblique allusions and wide-ranging roots styles. Buttressing the balance is the Austin group's foray into balladry, announced with the spectacular pining of "Promenade." Set against slow Southern rock piano and guitar, Kevin Russell's drawl anticipates a seasoned Patterson Hood through his juxtaposition of clever lines ("Somehow my losing just comes natural, like a Southern Democrat") with harrowingly beautiful imagery: "But in the evening when the sun's down, there's sadness on its way, like a ghost that knows my address, and where I lay." "Last Letter" and "Steeple Full of Swallows" follow suit, though more cryptic in their longing, while "A Few Extra Kilos" converts the drug reference to a fortysomething contemplation of expanding waistlines and gratuitous consumerism. The Gourds have hardly mellowed with age, however, romping through the Cajun fiddle of "Cranky Mulatto," banjo holler of "Flavor on the Tongue," and unexpected pop spin of "The Gyroscopic," which advises "Save Ulysses for another day … the sluts are comin', the big orgy just one day away. Wake up with Beatrice in the bushes; only in horniness will we prevail." After all, what's a more middle-aged denial than shunning Joyce's everyman and apocalyptically shagging Dante's beatific ideal?

***.5

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