When My Train Comes In
(A Review Of Joel Plaskett's Latest Album 'Three')
by Matt McKechnie
There used to be an old song by De La Soul that I loved
in which the chorus repeated 'Three...it's a magic numba...'
amidst other silly De La Soul-esque flowery beats and
In Joel Plaskett's 'Three', there are no flowery beats or
hippie-centric rap songs. There are only 27 individual pieces
of art in a musical exhibit that draw a passer-by in to stare
deeply. In a recent interview I conducted with Plaskett, his
words gave me some insight into some of the borderline-OCD
art-work within the album. Plaskett said "I felt that people
would only really get into this album if I could actually
somehow 'bring em to it'...". Using only the warm sounds of
analog recording equipment (as opposed to the default
digital of the modern world), the acoustic-driven (yet
often full-banded ending) songs have a tone of soothing
listenability that run through the entirety of the disc.
With three different albums towing nine songs apiece, there
is plenty to sink your teeth into and almost every aspect
of each album is divisible by three, in some way shape or
form. From the re-curring usage of the three word song
titles ('Heartless, Heartless, Heartless', 'Run, Run, Run',
'Gone, Gone, Gone', etc.), the listeners gets a strong sense
that Plaskett is trying to stick tightly to a concept with
little variance or movement outside of that frame. The
honey-drip accompanying vocals of Rose Cousins and New
York folker Anna Egge lend themselves to almost every song
in a brilliantly guiding light.
But so what? Tons of other artists put this kind of tedious
and exasperating prep into a full length - what is it about
Joel's work that pushes his cream to the top of the milk jar?
It might be due to Joel's ultra-personal songwriting style
that brings the listener right into his living room. JP pulls
no punches when it comes to exploring his own demons
(which are actually shown in the 2nd disc song 'Demons')
But what is it that keeps Plaskett 'Rollin, Rollin, Rollin'?
From his early days with 'The Hermit' (Thrush Hermit)
to his first solo work 'In Need of Medical Attention', Joel
has proven his ability to stay centrally focused (majorly
within rock, country and folk) but to dip very deeply into
varied musical pools when he needs to; He's not afraid to
pick up a mandolin and strum a heartfelt ballad or to
rip full-throttle into his beat-up fender duck and rock the
crowd without abandon. This is no more evident in the
song that rocks hardest on the album - 'Run, Run, Run'.
In this final song on disc 1, after a Zeppelin-esque whap-
drum and sonic rock riff ends, an acoustic coda begins
that ends the song with a brilliant refrain that just may
sum up Joel's experience as a musician so far - and as a
'All you beautiful creatures
You are featured presentations
Show me a little patience
Won't you meet me at the station
When my train comes in...'
In that same interview, Joel defined success as a sort of
'restlessness' in the sense that he is never truly happy with
what he's made - and he is always on to the next thing.
I didn't really get into this album at first - but it's like any
book worth reading; it takes some time to ingest and once
it sticks, it is all over your consciousness. Let's hope that
Joel still has a ways to go before that ever-running
train comes in.