Eleventh Dream Day – Works For Tomorrow

Eleventh Dream Day - Works For Tomorrow

Eleventh Dream Day – Works For Tomorrow

Fact: there is no such thing as a bad Eleventh Dream Day record.  However, it’s also true to say that it’s been a fair while since the hiatus-prone Chicago-based outfit released a truly great one; in the shape of 2000’s superb Stalled Parade.  Whilst 2006’s Zeroes And Ones and 2011’s Riot Now! were up the band’s own very high standards, the former was a tad too studio-polished and the latter a little over-reactionary in its rawness.  Moreover, neither album perhaps packed in enough of the sonic variety and group galvanization that has sustained the mainstay trio of Rick Rizzo (vocals/guitar), Janet Beveridge Bean (vocals/drums) and Doug McCombs (bass) over so many years of veteran activity.

Happily though, the freshly-cut Works For Tomorrow does a lot to correct and recalibrate such relative imbalances… and then some.

This is not to say that the new album is quite Stalled Parade II but it does find the core threesome – crucially augmented by returning producer/keyboard-player Mark Greenberg (The Coctails) and recently-recruited second guitarist Jim Elkington (Brokeback/Tweedy) – rediscovering democracy, diversity and dynamics, for a collection that plays to the full extent of the band’s existing range as well as exuberantly extending upon it.  Moreover, recording some of the LP in the artist-friendly environment of Wilco’s home-studio, The Loft, has helped to bring out extra life-affirming dimensions and enriching details.

Certainly, one of the biggest delights of Works For Tomorrow is the return of Bean to a far more frontline role, after her slightly more backroom contributions on Zeroes And Ones and Riot Now!  This largely means her channelling the spirit of Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and X’s Exene Cervenka to strikingly fearsome effect. The self-reviving shift is especially obvious on Bean’s two terrific lead-vocal tracks; the brilliantly barnstorming motorik-post-punk ride of “Vanishing Point” and a remarkable blues-stomping cover of Judy Henske and Jerry Yester’s obscure acid-psyche curio “Snowblind”.  Her trademark voice exchanges with Rizzo are equally as reinvigorated, particularly on the sublimely soaring horn-enhanced Sticky Fingers-meets-White Light/White Light mash-up of “Go Tell It” and on the dreamy El Moodio-style duetting of “The Unknowing”.

Eleventh Dream Day - Works For Tomorrow (vinyl edition)

Eleventh Dream Day – Works For Tomorrow (vinyl edition)

It’s not just Bean’s re-energised presence that makes Works For Tomorrow such a treat.  Rizzo is also reanimated by both his re-sharpened songwriting and his guitar interplay with Elkington.  This entails a string of songs that magnify his gifts for gutsy melodies (such as the ravaging title-track and the nostalgically road-tripping “Cheap Gasoline”), calming elegiac open-spaces (the beautifully pensive “Deep Lakes”) and Television-meets-Crazy Horse six-string twinning and bending (markedly evident on the closing “End With Me”).

It’s not just Bean, Rizzo and Elkington that make the record such a richly redemptive pleasure though.  Aside from adding fat organ sounds here and there, Greenberg’s production work is well-balanced texturally, allowing extra instrumental layers to give songs subtle but integral twists (as with the handclaps and piano lines on the Aladdin Sane-like darkened-boogie of “Requiem For 4 Chambers”).  Furthermore, McCombs’s bobbing, rubbery and hook-embedding bass-lines keep the album rhythmically vibrant for its full duration.  Whilst individually new and old EDD members alike are in peak condition; fused together they feel joyously unstoppable throughout.

Works For Tomorrow just gets better and better with every successive – and necessarily louder – airing, to the point where it does indeed feel like another genuinely great Eleventh Dream Day long-player.  Whilst there’s always the nagging feeling that each record could be the band’s swansong, if this were to be the parting shot, then it would certainly be a glorious high note to blow-out on.

Thrill Jockey