Iron & Wine Reviewed

Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Bros.)

Iron & Wine Reviewed

Iron & Wine

Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Bros.)

Kiss Each Other Clean is an album of and about metamorphosis, and metamorphosis is rarely pretty or easy. The essential dilemma for Iron & Wine's fourth official full-length and major-label debut lies locked in its bookends, two compositions that refuse to realize a connection or an identity, elements that have served as hallmarks of Sam Beam's songwriting over the past decade. Opener "Walking Far From Home" flickers with a barrage of detached images, a pastiche of pastoral scenes cryptically woven in familiar Beam fashion but resonating little empathy or interaction. Seven-minute closer "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me" spirals into a black hole of becoming, a litany of Whitman-esque contradictions paired in a refusal to resolve. In between erupts the album's clash of will and reality into a messy, ill-defined awkwardness of transition, which might have captivated in the complex shades of ambiguity that Beam expertly builds, except for a complete want of direction or purpose. "Guess I had nowhere else to go," reckons Beam atop a warped funk of bass and soft-rock sax on "Me and Lazarus," but it's equally unclear where he might want to be. "Tree by the River" and "Half Moon" both effectively layer a light pop sheen onto narratives that could have been drawn from his early work, while the dark percussion and guitar tones scattered across songs like "Monkeys Uptown" and "Rabbit Will Run" hearken a mixture of Dire Straits and In the Reins, Beam's 2005 collaboration with Calexico. Gratuitous splashes of kitchen-sink arrangements distract the most, almost antagonistic in shifts like the cooing piano ballad "Godless Brother in Love" into the chaotic skronk of "Big Burned Head." Whether Kiss Each Other Clean ultimately proves an unmoored castaway or simply evolutionarily confused depends on Beam's next step, but in his attempted embrace of all things, he's become none.

**

  • More of the Story

  • Loaded Dice

    Less is no longer more to Iron & Wine's Sam Beam
READ MORE
More Iron & Wine
Texas Platters
Iron & Wine
Ghost on Ghost (Record Review)

Austin Powell, May 17, 2013

ACL Music Fest Saturday Interviews
Iron & Wine
Sam Beam on saxophones and subjectivity

Austin Powell, Sept. 16, 2011

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers
Shanti's Shadow (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, May 26, 2017

Texas Platters
Chris Jamison
Mindless Heart (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, May 26, 2017

More by Doug Freeman
Texas Platters
The Mastersons
Transient Lullaby (Record Review)

May 26, 2017

If I Could Only Fly: Merle Haggard Covers Blaze Foley
If I Could Only Fly: Merle Haggard Covers Blaze Foley
Country legend was recording an LP of Foley songs when he died

May 4, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Iron & Wine

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)