splendid > reviews > 12/27/2005
The Slow Poisoner
The Slow Poisoner
Fatal Floral Phonograph
Mystic Melodies

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Fatal Floral Phonograph"

Buy me now
Andrew Goldfarb used to lead a quintet called The Slow Poisoners. For one reason or another, the other four musicians left, leaving Goldfarb to his own devices -- which explains the band's slight name change. It also explains their (or rather, his) sudden sonic resemblance to The White Stripes -- the Poisoners always favored tunes with a rootsy, bluesy, country kind of gait, but the singular Poisoner is challenged to provide not only guitar and vocals, but drumming! Goldfarb's solution? He operates a bass drum with his foot, yielding results only slightly less nuanced than Meg White's notoriously simplistic work. There's also the matter of a piano -- which, though Goldfarb pushes the "I am a one man band who gives a great performance while being one man and a band" thing pretty hard, appears frequently, and occasionally at points when he clearly cannot be playing it, assuming he's serious about the whole real-time thing. There's nothing wrong with that, of course -- and the piano is nice, so he should keep it -- but this only makes comparisons between Fatal Floral Phonograph and De Stijl harder to resist. Goldfarb even does coy, surreal, faux innocent lyrics and sings in an endearingly inept manner.

Pragmatically speaking, the similarities make his music an opportunity to experience the joy of old White Stripes albums without losing your indie cred -- but of course, that's selling him short. While the resemblance is undeniable, Goldfarb has a sound and a style all his own. Opener "Come To Me" matches twangy western guitars and saloon piano with a militant beat; the finished piece would be perfectly at home on a Quasi album if not for Goldfarb's particular flair as a performer. There's something distinctly theatrical about his work; if you have kids, it might occur to you to hire him as a birthday party entertainer. His absurd, seemingly meaningless lyrics communicate a strange sort of wholesomeness, as does the conviction with which he retreads guitar tropes and simplistic beats that might seem tired and stale in other hands. Again, this sounds a little like Jack White, but they're quite different, we promise. If nothing else, Goldfarb has few if any of White's experimental urges; from a musical perspective, Fatal Floral Phonograph is gleefully conventional, without a discordant chord or distorted animal yelp within earshot.

As a whole, Fatal Floral Photograph is intriguing and entertaining. What it lacks, unfortunately, is length and substance. Whimsical but musically conventional artists usually need a little extra time to make a lasting impression -- certainly more than the eleven minutes that Goldfarb fills here. A record that leaves you wanting more is generally a good thing, but you may wonder why Goldfarb didn't hold the EP back 'til he had a few more songs ready to go.



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