Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Album Review: Akron/Family’s Love Is Simple

Bookended by tunes ripened on that great commune in the sky—a place where it’s a good idea to feature the word “love” three times in a song title— Love Is Simple finds its true footing, and its ultimate salvation, in the middle. Powerhouse rock-out “Ed Is a Portal” mixes cacophony with melody, and concludes with a shockingly disconcerting synthetic electro-beat more appropriate for a late-nineties high school hip-hopper than a pseudo-folk rock outfit in the year of our lord 2007. But although this seeming faux pas could be seen to sink the ship, it instead highlights the band’s self-awareness—after all, these four men can’t really take this seriously, as no sane person can vocally harmonize whoops and hollers for too long before taking a break to laugh…or at least just get high as hell and think about togetherness and God and nature and all that shit, man.

But LIS is not all fun and games in your parents’ basement, as the albums difficult-to-avoid-gagging bookends act as warning shots for other flaccid moments within the fifty-six minute opus—certainly Akron/Family could have served this lovechild better with a little pickier song selection, as certain efforts, including the theme-shattering scotch-rock anthem “Of All the Things,” feel like fodder for a different album altogether. But it’s easy to lend forgiveness, because if you include their 2005 split LP with Angels of Light, this is their fourth album in less than four years—this is a band that keeps itself busy. Apparently, music flows freely from the billowing beards of displaced Pennsylvania boys.

Over the course of its career, Akron/Family has displayed an increasing propensity for the long song, and of Love Is Simple‘s twelve tracks, four check in beefier than seven minutes. While their rollicking intensity and haphazard styling befits the long format, LIS finds perhaps its most “people-ready” highlight in “I’ve Got Some Friends,” which clocks at a startling three minutes, and, because of the rest of the album’s precedent, seems to end far too early.

Akron/Family has been through quite a ride the past few years, from the dueling personalities of their 2005 releases—their self-titled debut was gentle and introspective, while the split LP was raucous and crowd-pleasing—to establishing a name for themselves as one of the industry’s most worthwhile live shows, to the often mis-stepping conflation of the two early styles on last year’s hasty and undercooked Meek Warrior. All that, plus their uncompromising energy, has left Love Is Simple a troubling and ramshackle effort fraught with headscratchers and headbangers, not to mention unbuyable idealism and uplifting lightheartedness. But when it really comes down to it, though, all that stuff makes for a listen that’s just as fun and unpredictable thirty listens through as when you first pressed play. And, you know what, that’s pretty simple to appreciate, if not love.

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