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Saccharine Trust - We Became Snakes CD (album) cover


Saccharine Trust


Eclectic Prog

4.02 | 9 ratings

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4 stars The band's third full-length release was also their swan song; and a fine way to bow out too, bringing together the band's strengths into a sophisticated, thrilling, varied batch of tunes. The band's jazz inclinations, introduced on 1985's improvised Worldbroken, are solidified by the addition of a full time sax player with jazz chops (Steve Moss) and a new bassist who can really wail (Bob Fitzer). Tony Cicero, on drums since 1984's aggressive Surviving You, Always, shows how much he has grown as a player, with a really solid and understated mix of finesse and power that makes him the unsung hero of this album. Jack Brewer (vocals) shows his range as well, with some of the best lyrics of his career, and sing/speaking in a very wide range of voices; from screaming intensity (end of the title track) to winking sarcasm (Drugstore Logic), to actual singing (The Need), a plainspoken declaration of love (the concluding Belonging to October), to just not singing at all (the instrumental Frankie on a Pony). Joe Baiza (guitar) is the true star here, though, playing a lead/rhythm style that throws down blankets of strange chords and solos in strange scales over them, even as Brewer is weaving his verses and Fitzer is hitting every fret (or lack thereof... he plays fretless a lot too) on his instrument. The music is as colorful as the album cover.

The title track opens the album - very quietly at first, with free atmospheric interplay between bass, drums, and guitar. When the song begins proper, Brewer is in full flight, recreating the Garden of Eden in his own surreal poetic way, hitting a spine-tingling climax at the end of the track. "Drugstore Logic" is a funky little number with Brewer taking on the character of a pedophile or a drug dealer (take your pick). Again, Brewer ramps up the emotion, hitting a peak right at the end. "Frankie on a Pony" is next, a total jazz instrumental written by and featuring Baiza. Nice stuff, and for 9 pleasing minutes too. "The Need" concludes side one with a brief ballad, Brewer showing his melancholic, vulnerable side, like mid-period Swans.

Side two opens with "For Her While", a darkly rolling art rock masterpiece built around chords that I'm convinced Baiza made up himself. Somehow Fitzer finds a rockin' bass line to ground this dissonant track, and Moss (sax) makes significant contributions here too with a great solo. Brewer keeps his voice low and atmospheric, ceding the focus to the brilliant interplay of the band. "Effort to Waste II" is next, a remake of a song from their debut EP from 1981. The lyrics are the same, but the musical arrangement is completely overhauled, giving Fitzer and Moss another chance to dazzle on the fretless bass and tenor sax on this sleek and speedy tune. "The Redeemer" slows it down, giving Moss more room to do his thing on sax. Again, Brewer lays back, reciting his thing but giving the spotlight to the band. Next up is an odd one - "Longing for Ether" is built around a prog jazz groove, but contains two sets of lyrics - one recited by Joe Baiza in one speaker, the other recited by some guy named Gary Jacobelly in the other speaker. Cool beans. Finally we have the acoustic (!) ballad "Belonging to October" with guest accordion and harmonica, and Jack Brewer, the man who once screamed like an evangelist on nearly every song, actually confessing "I love you" without hint of irony in a very touching lyric. Somehow, a fitting way to end such a daring and unpredictable album.

This is the album that the prog fans will want to check out. If you like this and wouldn't mind hearing them do it more loudly, give Surviving You, Always a try. If you want more of their jazzy side, try the live improvised Worldbroken. Also, Joe Baiza, Steve Moss, and Bob Fitzer formed a new band called Universal Congress Of after this album, which further explores the jazzy directions taken on this album.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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