Album Reviews

Bob Collum And The Welfare Mothers – Set The Stupid Free

(Atomic Powered) UK release date: 14 January 2008

With a name like Bob Collum & The Welfare Mothers, with an album title like that, not to mention their proposed early 2008 appearances at the Leytonstone Ex-Servicemen’s Club and an event called Prozac Yokel, I really did want to like this album.

Anyone that relocates from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Basildon surely deserves some sort of recompense in the form of gleeful critical acclaim for their music.

Unfortunately it just can’t be done. The songs on Set The Stupid Free are like ghosts of other tunes; you listen and you’re haunted by the feeling you’ve heard them somewhere before.

The lyrics too are packed with so many clich�s I begin to wonder if it’s a parody and I just don’t get it. There’s nothing bad about the album but it’s eminently damnable with faint praise. The musicianship is competent veering on polished, with a bit of grit to the electric guitar here and there, and slimily smooth pedal steel.

There’s just something ersatz about it all. Especially avoidable is maudlin ditty Damaged One, although the preceding track, Virginia Mystery, has a strong hook even if the musical phrasing is rather corny and predictable.

The standout track, however, has to be a cover of the old blues standard (What You Gonna Do When The) Well Runs Dry? which sounds far more committed than the other songs without exactly kicking its heels up. Unfortunately it’s followed by Cemetery Blues, which sounds like it’s been recorded by a completely different band, with its pealing U2-style guitars and bathetic rhymes, ending in a heavy rock climax of clattering drums and electric guitar which just seems alien in this context.

There are several further styles on display, from the echoey Honky Tonk of Disco Jesus (which overstays its welcome by about 2 minutes), which is bizarrely followed by one of those closely harmonised eulogies to the dearly departed in �Nevermore’, with its bluegrass-styled backing track, which in turn gives way to a poppy tribute to former American talk show host Jennifer Jones. Schizophrenic it may be, intriguing it isn’t.

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Bob Collum And The Welfare Mothers – Set The Stupid Free