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The Muffins - Chronometers CD (album) cover

CHRONOMETERS

The Muffins

 

Canterbury Scene

3.77 | 43 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This album is more of a compilation of various recordings that took place before The Muffins released their debut album. So as an album/unit, this one is not really flowing that well together, but named after the lengthy Chronometers, to which the Cuneiform label gave it (in 93) the great artwork, it represents the early "formative" years of the Muffins as a quintet: Newhouse, Swann and Scott were there, but Abramowitz was holding the drum stool (instead of Sears) and there was an extra Zentner (guitar, violin) player.

The overall feeling is still one of Canterbury's spirits meeting with the Cow from Henry and the Mother of Zappa. The title track is of course the single most impressive track, but is hardly without its share of flaws, but certainly for an early summer of 76, this is still quite a feat given that it was not to be released.

Most of the other tracks (all dating from the previous fall) are under the 3'30" length (except for two that are around 5 minutes) and we are struck with the sense that they are not entirely finished, most likely waiting for a future assembling that never came. Molten Clouds and Apparently are both excellent tracks that National Health would not disown, but if the much shorter Interest Span and Dr. Fischer mesh quite well as a unit (so do Blind Cave and Evening later in the album), not the same can be said about the rest of the tracks, even if there is some obvious care at the sequence they are presented in. However disjointed this album maybe, most of the excerpts are quite enjoyable (Toxic Planet, Bush, the spoken lyrics of Three Days and the superb Peacocks), but others are much less interesting and sound completely unrefined or unfinished (Manilla Robots, Size Of That Sponge and Mammoth Hide) or some lack interest (Creature Comfort, Early American Ears and the weak Pears).

After these sessions, Abramowitz and Zentner would leave the group, leaving The Muffins to tour as an improvising trio, before Paul Sears would then join them. While not as exhilarating as their proper debut album Mirage, Chronometers might be the second most essential Muffins icon you should own, even if Open City (yet another pre- debut recording session) and 185 have their own arguments.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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