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CD Review: We’re About 9, Amalgam

(Photo by We're About 9)

 

We’re About 9
Amalgam
[Self-released (2010)]

This 17-track album chronicles the four most recent releases of one this Baltimore-bred band now living in Boston.

As with any other We’re About 9 release, a healthy dose of cute humor greets you from the first moment you pick up the album, as the cover image is a photograph of the album covers whose songs are represented on the collection: Something Magnetic EP, I Stopped Listening, Live Wherever You Are, and Move Like Light. And apparently Mr. Webster thought highly enough of the band to include a blub about their album in his dictionary:

A mixture of different elements.

Another bit of band cheekiness is that Live Wherever You Are, the oldest album represented on this collection, is itself something of a greatest hits collection: chief songwriter and bandleader Brian Gundersdorf  in fact called it exactly that to one of my close friends, right in front of me no less. And Move Like Light is Katie Graybeal’s solo album and not even a We’re About 9 album.

(Photo by Chris Chin)

Disclosure: I’m not just a fan of this band, I’ve known them ever since 1999, when I met them at a Baltimore Songwriters’ Association open mic on the Cellar Stage in Hamilton, less than a mile from my parent’s house. My first question to them was whether they were each about 3. Years later, when I saw them perform as a duo and call themselves “We’re About 6,” Brian gave me no credit for this. I’m still bitter!

The band has remixed and remastered everything here, and even added vocals and instrumentation to “All the Time” and “I Don’t Know,” so there’s reasons for their longtime fans to get ahold of this aside from the minute-long new a capella track that closes the disc, albeit not overly compelling ones. But We’re About 9 has never been an album-driven band—they have always just release the best 7-12 songs they have at any given time, and for the most part their evolution has been improved studio expertise (most recently with Scott Smith of Naked Blue), tighter harmonies and cleaner vocals from Pat Klink and Katie Graybeal (Gundersdorf has retained his charmingly ragged and vulnerable voice). The convenience of a greatest hits record, then, is a perfectly good reason to get this even if you have the recordings represented here in their native settings.

Newcomers will get an accurate portrayal of the band, and the band has struck a thorough balance between their most accessable serious material like the phenominal track “I Stopped Listening” (where the narrator confesses 30 years into his marriage that he’s cheated on his wife the entire time) and their clever material like “Port Wine Song” (a breakup song written from the perspetive of a bottle of port). “Born Again” (another unusual narrator: a parking space), which will introduce you to the phrases “car bra” and “car teats” and contains some of my favorite lines ever written in a song

I always said that if I was born agan
I’d get something obtrusive pierced through my chest
I’d come back as a woman and I would walk around braless
And men would stare straight at my breasts and say,
“These kids today are all heathens”

also makes an appearance.

We're About 9 often performs as We're About 6. Pat Klink still lives in Baltimore, so Boston is most likely to see the band in a duo setup. (Photo by David Maccaferri)

The only truly regretable thing about this  disc is that it contains nothing from Paperdust::Stardust, their excellent 2008 follow-up to the short album I Stopped Listening. The reason this decision is regrettable is not just that some material is missing but that Paperdust::Stardust contained some of their most innovative and unusual tunes.

The band has a very interesting distribution for the album and individual tracks in that it is available only from The Wood and Stone Room (where the band recorded their most recent albums). [circanine.com]

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

[Edit: The original posting of  this article incorrectly attributed the top photo to David Maccaferri. The photo was taken by We’re About 9. Also, the individual tracks are now available from iTunes and all other such vendors, but listeners are still encouraged to visit the Wood and Stone Room.]

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