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Steve Von Till | If I Fall To the Field | Neurosis | review | rock | Lollipop

Steve Von Till

If I Fall To the Field (Neurot)
by Brian Varney

This is the sorta thing that naturally gets tossed my way, my being the resident Neil Young/Tom Waits fan around here. Apparently, this Steve Von Till is in Neurosis and this is the same sorta thing as Mark Lanegan's solo albums; a chance to step away from the band, breathe deeply for a bit, and flex the sensitivity muscles.

The arrangements are skeletal, the acoustic guitar and Von Till's hushed vocals doing most of the work. Drums and other stringed instruments turn up here and there, but they're used more for punctuation and shading rather than as standard rock accompaniment. Like Lanegan's solo albums, this is a folk album, a rock dude's attempt to emulate his folkie heroes, be it Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, whoever.

Where Von Till parts ways with Lanegan is, unfortunately, a very important place: The vocals. In order to pull off such heavily vocal-driven music, the singer's voice must be very good (or at least bad in an interesting way). Lanegan, as we all know, is the owner of one of the finest voices in all of rock music. And while, as I said, I'm not that familiar with Neurosis's output or how Von Till's vocals fit with that band's brand of racket-making, I do know that the deep, half-spoken Cohen-esque style he employs here sounds a bit forced, as if he's trying to will a sense of austerity into his voice. A noble intention, I suppose, but something you cannot force.

There are moments of exquisite beauty, where everything comes together brilliantly, most noticeably on his nicely-chosen Neil Young cover, "Running Dry." However, these moments usually have more to do with the musical accompaniment than with any sort of vocal triumph on Von Till's part. The moments when the arrangement swells to the point of bursting, such as the explosion of passion at the end of "To the Field," are the album's highlights.
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