f-tunes: Cotton Mather: Kon Tiki

Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 6:04 pm ET


Frumped by

1997's Kon Tiki, by Cotton Mather

Hadn’t broken out this gem in quite some time.  I remember thinking it was great the first time I heard it.  Listened to it almost exclusively for a month or two as I recall.  Not much has changed.  It may even sound better now, and I suspect it’ll be back in the rotation for awhile…

Cotton Mather was formed in Austin, Texas back in the early 90’s, but there’d be no shame in mistaking them for some relatively obscure Indie Power Pop band from Merseyside.  In fact, much of 1997’s Kon Tiki sounds like stuff that could have ended up on The Beatles’ cutting room floor sometime between Revolver and The White Album.  That’s not to say that the material on Kon Tiki isn’t quality, just that the Beatles, of course, didn’t do it. 

There are definite shades of other influences on the album, but The Beatles, Lennon and Harrison in particular, are undoubtedly the most prominent.  Cotton Mather isn’t shy about that, I’d say, but that doesn’t mean that Kon Tiki fails to deliver anything novel to the ears.  Employing a wide variety of instruments and production textures, the album certainly provides a worthwhile sonic experience, and frontman Robert Harrison (no relation to George) has no problems flexing his versatile, grossly underrated songwriting muscles.

All in all, all that provides for a wonderfully balanced album.  Some of the harmonies and melodies may sound familar, but, more often than not, the general arrangements spare them from the realms of cliche.  “Camp Hill Rail Operator” rockingly opens her up, and appropriately, as any good opener should, gets you warmed up and asking for more.  What follows doesn’t disappoint, for the most part. 

“Homefront Cameo”, “Spin my Wheels”, “Private Ruth”, “Aurora Bori Alice”, “She’s Only Cool” and the album’s closer, “Autumn’s Birds”, are all highlights.  “My Before and After”, eventually released as a single, was actually a minor hit in the UK after Oasis guitarist and songwriter, Noel Gallagher, caught wind of the album and asked Cotton Mather to join them on tour.  Nevertheless, if I had to choose one, and only one, track to extract from this Kon Tiki, it would have to be “Lily Dreams On”.  A simply constructed, yet plainly beautiful, song, “Lily Dreams On” certainly makes the extremely long list of songs I wish I’d written myself.  It never gets old, and has the all too unique quality of engaging the listener to the point where they almost feel a part of the song itself.  Listen to it with a nice pair of Grados or Sennheisers.  Hopefully the experience will be the same.

Unfortunately, despite the classic nature of this album, Kon Tiki has become a bit of a rarity on CD.  New copies sell for over $100 at times, and even used cuts rarely go for under 20 bucks.  That said, if you happen to come across one in your local record store’s bargain bin, snatch it up.  My copy’s not for sale…

Track Listing

1. Camp Hill Rail Operator
2. Homefront Cameo
3. Spin My Wheels
4. My Before and After
5. Private Ruth
6. Vegetable Row
7. Aurora Bori Alice
8. Church of Wilson
9. Lily Dreams On
10. Password
11. Animal Show Drinking Song
12. Prophecy for the Golden Age
13. She’s Only Cool
14. Autumn’s Birds

F-Tunes Ratings

Saturation: 8.25
Sonic Upholstery: 9.0
I&I: N/A
Replay Value: High

Overall: 8.75, You should have this on the rack.

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