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File under: AbstractPost-Rock

David Grubbs

Rickets & Scurvy

Label: Drag City

Format: LP

Genre: Experimental

Out of stock

One of his best works, it brings together technical bluegrass banjo and fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing with abrupt stylistic shifts, philosophical questioning lyrics, improvisation, and drones.

2024 Stock. With no less than Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm and Demonology, collaborating on lyrics, as well as playing by John McEntire of Tortoise and M.C. Schmidt (aka Matmos), David Grubbs has fashioned a brilliant third album of neo-folk that is as wondrous as Tortoise's audio experiments and as thick with experience as Moody's novels. Musically, Rickets and Scurvy is closest to the solo output of the other half of Gastr del Sol, Jim O'Rourke, on albums like Eureka and Insignificance. "Transom," in particular, walks the line between pop and the unusually experimental. But other sounds are present in Grubbs' post-rock -- John Fahey guitars, a levity to match Miighty Flashlight, American minimalist composers -- all in service of the repatriation of youth. Like time slipping away, Rickets and Scurvy is an album that creeps up on you, but it is as sublime as a long lost memory and equally as rewarding. 

File under: AbstractPost-Rock
Cat. number: DC224
Year: 2002
Recorded 10/01-1/02 at the Rare Book Room, Brooklyn. Additional recording at Soma, Chicago; Wombat Recording Co., Brooklyn; Studio 364, Brooklyn. Mastered at West West Side.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of "When Folk Meets Academia"!Read more

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of "When Folk Meets Academia"! In tonight's installment, Professor Grubbs will attempt to stretch the formula that carried 2000's worthwhile The Spectrum Between one step further, by adding glitchy electronics to his trademark flashy acoustic guitar stylings and alternately whimsical and impenetrable lyrics.

For Rickets & Scurvy, Grubbs has enlisted quite a number of insanely talented individuals-- drummer John McEntire, who chews up polyrhythms like they were Polly-O string cheese, undisputed lord and master of exotic punctuation and jazz guitar Noël Akchoté, veteran producer and charming Frenchman Nicolas Vernhes, and the much-lauded electronic duo Matmos.

Whether you rock out Hanukkah-style to the Silver Jews' American Water or regularly pretend not to be at all disappointed with Björk's Vespertine, odds are somebody who plays on this album has had a hand in another album that you love very, very deeply. If not, that's still going to be the case after a run through Rickets & Scurvy. See, The Spectrum Between not only had a core of melody, structure, and intimacy supporting its more adventurous elements, but its flourishes of drums, horns, and electric guitars meshed seamlessly with Grubbs' songwriting. Rickets & Scurvy, however, suffers from a double-dose of disappointment-- the songs themselves aren't nearly as compelling as those on The Spectrum Between, and the nonessential elements of the songs seem... well, even less essential.

Which is not, by any means, to say that Rickets & Scurvy is bereft of value. As far as it may stray from the focused and intimate nucleus of The Spectrum Between, this disc is still anchored by Grubbs' unique talents as a guitarist and lyricist. Within the first minute of "Transom", with its complex plucked guitar figures and casually delivered, noun-intensive lyrics, Grubbs has worked his way comfortably into his own stylistic niche. Yet, although the record is marked by the presence of a slew of known innovators (Grubbs himself included), it never really pushes any envelopes, opting instead to simply add more layers to the formulae that Grubbs has utilized in previous outings. He flirts with heavier sounds ("Pinned to the Spot") and has two electronic interludes provided by Matmos, but the musical core never sees any kind of renovation that isn't strictly aesthetic.

This wouldn't even be such a problem if the songs on Rickets & Scurvy were as strong as they were on The Spectrum Between, but the quality of the vocal melodies and the guitar work here just isn't up to par. Grubbs explored the more epic, meandering and experimental side of his songwriting on the banjo-centric The Thicket, and then focused in on melody and simplicity for The Spectrum Between. On both of those records, the bells and whistles provided by guest musicians engaged and enhanced Grubbs' songwriting. Here, they do nothing to deeply flesh out the songs, and Grubbs' intricately plucked guitar lines and laidback vocal delivery just aren't constructed as elegantly as they have been on previous outings. This record is absolutely overflowing with talent-- but without songs strong enough to support the gifted roster, Rickets & Scurvy never manages to rise above "decent".

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