Release Date: Oct 6, 2009
Record label: Dead Oceans
Genre(s): Rock, Experimental
Califone’s music sounds like it’s perpetually in the process of metamorphosis, as if you’ve caught these songs at the moment when their shapes have just become discernible. Clatter coheres into order on the seven-minute “Giving Away the Bride,” the first song on the Chicago group’s ninth album. It’s an auspicious opening, showcasing both Tim Rutili’s exquisitely forlorn vocals and the band’s naturalistic rethinking of Americana tropes.
There's no other band like Califone. Ten years ago in this publication, Mark Richardson called them "the perfect sonic evolution for rock," praising their ability to meld the noise prevalent in experimental music with the organic textures of folk as if it were the most natural thing. A decade on, that's still accurate-- Tim Rutili, Ben Massarella, Jim Becker, Joe Adamik, and the various other musicians in Califone's orbit have managed to take their original aesthetic coup and make an incredibly consistent nine-album career out of it.
Tim Rutili's Califone had been mixing trad-minded folk-blues flavors with more experimental inclinations for a good decade by the time they put this album together, and the combination has grown increasingly seamless along the way. The electric drones, scrapes, buzzes, and squalls of avant-garde abandon are not isolated occurrences that exist outside the structure of the songs; they're encompassed by the structures. If anything, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is a more lambent effort than its predecessors, but one that feels fully a part of the band's evolutionary progress.
Reviewing a band which you know almost nothing about is not the insurmountable challenge it used to be. The internet has changed all that. Gone are the days of piles of labelled promo records: today, I might receive the new Califone album as a digital download via email, after which I immediately turned my eyes to the world wide web in order to learn a little bit about the band that Red Red Meat had become.
The concept album comes in many shapes and forms. There’s the ridiculous whiny story concept (My Chemical Romance’s Welcome To The Black Parade), the depressing, broken concept (The Wall, The Antlers' Hospice), the one that simply unifies (Sgt. Peppers, OK Computer), the list could go on and on. Califone’s All My Friends Are Funeral Singers defies any of the aforementioned categories.