Album review: "Television of Saints"
By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, May 25, 2012
Rocky Votolato grew up listening to country music in rural Texas until he moved at age 13 to Seattle and joined the local punk-rock scene with his own band, Waxwing. Yet there’s little evidence of either influence on his new album, “Television of Saints,” a freak-folk album with lyrics too elliptical to be country and rhythms too gentle and acoustic to be punk. Votolato’s handsome tenor and occasional strong image are enough, however, to sustain interest in his musical reveries.
Playing acoustic guitar and sometimes joined by his brothers and/or friends on understated folk-rock arrangements, Votolato warbles intriguing lines, such as “a life like the tree branches on my street clipped back to make room for the power lines to pass.” But that line from the song “Sparks” is followed by images of snow seen through the rear window of a car, dead flowers on a dashboard and Buddhist prayer flags on a wall. These non sequiturs imply that the songwriter is more interested in evoking a mood than in retelling a coherent story or conversation.
The moods he evokes, however, are pleasant rather than powerful; his chord changes are too predictable and his lyrics too random to exert a firm hold on the listener. On such songs as “Little Spring” (co-written with Matt Pond) or “Fool’s Gold,” our interest dreamily fades in and out of focus, like the lyrics themselves.