It was just over a year ago now that a little album called Thought For Food hit the scene in big way, throwing everyone off guard with its goofy charm and ended up on the year-end list of many (including mine). After I'd heard that album, I thought it would simply be one of those shots in the dark, a weird little disc that shoots out of nowhere and you never heard from the people who created it again. Althought I knew that one part of the duo (Nick Zammuto) had been creating music for some time, and would probably continue in some form, I guess I didn't view The Books as more than a one-off collaboration.
When I heard (again, out of the blue) that the duo had again gotten together for another album, I was both excited and nervous. The excitement was for obvious reasons, but me being nervous was simply because I wondered if they could capture the same feeling they did on their debut, or whether a second disc of similar music would leave me indifferent. Interestingly enough, The Lemon Of Pink is built in much the same way that its predicessor was, and while it conjures up similar feelings at times, it also takes off in different directions entirely with the addition of actual vocals.
The album leads off with the two tracks simply going by the album title of "The Lemon Of Pink," and they both work in slightly different ways. The first of the two opens with soft strums of guitar and manipulated plucks of violin (both of which you'll be familiar with if you heard their first disc), while random sound fires sound off (including a woman intoning the track title) before a shanty-town acoustic guitar melody builds out of it all and a verse of almost delta-blues sounding vocals drifts in before the track again shambles off. The third track of "Tokyo" builds on backwards and cut-up loops of guitar and violin before a sample of a flight attendant comes in and the entire track sways and flutters back and forth like a string-quartet run through a blender before everything slowly deconstructs again.
There are several shorter (under a minute long) tracks on the disc that never really go much of anywhere and fail to add much to the release (such as "Bonanza" and the closer of "PS"), but elsewhere the group has constructed what are easily the best tracks in their short collaborative period. "There Is No There" builds on more spliced-up guitars and violin before being bridged with a sound sample about the views of Ghandi (for a touch of political statement) before building into a lovely crescendo with cut-up vocals and stuttering guitars. "Take Time" is a giddy track build on all odd percussive sounds and the mantra of "Take Time" while hilariously glorious samples of people laughing shoot off at random times. Like so many tracks on their last album, it's one of those tracks that sounds like an absolute mess on paper, but captures happiness more than almost any other track I've heard this year.
Elsewhere, the group pulls off more straightforward, cut-up folk songs ("S Is For Everything" and "Don't Even Sing About It") while they again build things to an amazing crescendo on the hiccuping "That Right Ain't Shit." In all, 13 tracks run by in just about 37 minutes, but the duo has pulled off the unlikely in creating an amazing second album. Admittingly, this isn't for everyone, and some people didn't see the charm in the first release either, but there's an almost naive playfullness (even during the melancholy moments) that is almost inexplicable. Long live The Books.