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Album Review
Kiss Each Other Clean

Kiss Each Other Clean
by Iron and Wine


Review Date
24th March 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Iron & Wine (Samuel Bean to his mother) is on a mission and this is apparent to anyone who has been following his work. He started as a gentle folk troubadour and has been travelling down the road towards higher production values and borderline-mainstream recognition, even if his material is still gentle in nature. 2007’s ‘Shepherd’s Dog’ was a bold step towards this goal, sounding more full and electric than any of his previous offerings. ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ is then the logical progression from there and the sound he is pursuing is just getting bigger. The key components of indie-minded folkestry are still in play; acoustic guitars, upright bass, and tambourines are still the order of the day. In fact, much of the album has the same key components as the blessed-out country rock of more recent My Morning Jacket albums. At its most energetic ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ never exceeds the pace of the Eagles which suits the beautiful music perfectly.

On ‘Walking far From Home’, the album’s first song, Beam’s voice - usually soft and charming - sounds as if it were filtered through a PVC pipe, filled with thin reverb. The sentiment underneath his instrument is still saccharine but he repurposes it to great effect. His chosen singer/storyteller persona gets more intriguing when the lyrics swim into darker waters. ‘Rabbit Will Run’ would be an arresting spectacle after such a calm start to the album no matter what it said. It is laced with awkward stabs of modern noise such as funk guitars, and Jack White-worthy distorted keyboards. When it unleashes gems like “When they caught me the cups caught the blood from my wrist / 'Cause a rabbit will run and a pig has to lay in its piss” you can’t help but be taken aback slightly. The stomping saxophone and distant turntable scratches of ‘Big Burned Hand’ are also confrontational in nature, Beam apparently keen to show off some new tricks. ‘Godless Brother In Love’ offers a slight reprieve from the encroaching shadows, sounding likeyou caught Jeff Buckley on a particularly cheery day. The deliberate pace of the albums pays dividends in album closer ‘Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me’; a pensive epic buoyed by its elevated tempo. It swells, builds, layers, and grooves for seven minutes before chanting an uplifting refrain ”We will become again” into the void.

It is a sweet and heartfelt album that ups the ante at every turn, towering over its predecessors in terms of sheer aspiration. Dogmatic types may bemoan his newly realised ambition – preferring the sublime intimacy of the earlier records – but the simple truth of the matter is that Beam is a man on a mission. The mission is to evolve his sound and keep his eyes forwards.

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