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music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Fuse

Artist: Joe Henry
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: March 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Joe Henry is a unique, interesting artist. His 1997 release Trampoline was a revelation; a brilliant textured work. The songs were moody, slow percussive pieces with great grooves and lyrics filled with ambivalence. Ohio Air Show Place Crash was based on the image of the moment before the crash, slowly digging deeper and deeper into the groove. Fuse is filled with more hypnotic, carefully constructed songs. It starts well with Monkey, Henry's tale of patiently waiting and serving his love's memory until she comes back. The spare, echoing music creates a sense of living for sensation as do the lyrics, "I'll chew my lip to keep it sore." Henry's raspy, strangled sounding vocals serve his tales of fascination with the dark side and finding beauty in strange places. Like She Was a Hammer is a fascinating tale of obsession and a great example of how Henry combines his croaking vocals, layered drums and keyboard effects to create an undeniable groove. Fuse often has a dreamy feeling which is best appreciated if you can get into the right trippy mood.

Sometimes Henry's understated, poker face delivery can be a little too much. After six minutes of the deliberate Want Too Much, you might want to say, I get it, you want too much. The self satisfied account of his needs is less interesting than the fascinated, voyeuristic tales of Trampoline. With the help of similarly interested T-Bone Burnett, Henry clearly is very careful crafting the sound. The precise, layered soundscape is a large part of Henry's appeal. Still, after a while a little rocking and spontaneity is welcome. Live, many of he songs have improved thanks to big, well played drums and a slighty looser feeling. Skin and Teeth rocks more than anything else on Fuse or Trampoline. Because Henry's normally so reserved, it's a touching surprise when he opens his heart so freely, singing "I love you with my skin and teeth" over music that replaces the murkiness of much of the record with a simple driving beat. Great Lake is also helped by Henry showing a little emotion as well as a wry sense of humor. Maybe Fuse could have used a little more juice but his daring to work in a lo-fi idiosyncratic idiom is a large part of his charm. With the exception of a pointless remake of We'll Meet Again, Fuse is always interesting and it's often great.

Here's what others reviewers have to say:

"...Next to Henry's enchantingly elusive new album, FUSE, his breakthrough TRAMPOLINE seems like a baby step. The songs still have gorgeous bone structure, but by sacrificing their meticulousness, Henry achieves a more enigmatic beauty..." 8 (out of 10) Spin 5/99, p.152



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