I am not a fan of the much heralded "concept album". More
often than not, they are a bloated set of records that could easily
be trimmed down to ten or twelve good, or even great, songs. (The
Smashing Pumpkins filler-laden Melancholy And The Infinite
Sadness stands as a prime example.) Multi-instrumentalist indie
rock is all the rage amongst hipsters it seems and the "concept
album" is the weapon of choice. Whether it is The Decemberists,
The Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens and his "states"
discs, to me it washes out to be mostly about the hype bestowed upon
them and very little else.
Midwest Dilemma, a group from Omaha, Nebraska, has changed
my mind about the "concept record" for their exceptional
Timelines And Tragedies, but don't get me wrong, this is a
special case and my disgust for most "concept records" will
surely return upon completion of this review. Justin Lamormeux,
lead vocalist/guitarist, and his band of merry men and women paint
a broad musical landscape with Timelines; spanning from 1662
to present day, it is a story fraught with loss, desperation, discontent,
love and brilliance. The album is able to take on different times
("Fur Trader", "The Great depression"), places
("Montréal", "Omaha") and topics without
falling into the pit of pretentiousness that sucks in many an indie
For the collective that is Midwest Dilemma it is a chance taken and
the beautifully flawed words and compositions pay off in spades. Timelines
is an expansive work made better by Lamormeux's Neil Young/Adam
Duritz/Bob Dylan/Conor Oberst hybrid vocals; he
is a young man old before his time. He holds an obvious understanding
of pain and composition that few of the planet grasp.
Many styles (from bluegrass to gospel) and many unique instruments
are used to great effect on the album. Vibraphone, Tuba, Clarinet,
Viola Pomposa are just a few used with delicate purity and artist
abandon. Timelines And Tragedies is a complete work. It is
a history lesson; it shows us that even though time has moved on,
man's past leaves its mark and today and tomorrow. Lamormeux's effort
is a solid one; it is legacy, heredity, ugliness, vivaciousness and
The only tragedy that could befall the talented group of musicians
that make up Midwest Dilemma is the off chance that Timelines And
Tragedies is not embraced wholeheartedly by a massive following
of college students, people who appreciate folk in all its forms and
hipster romantics in the coming months. The superior storytelling
and perfected neurosis of Timelines would make even the late
Nick Drake crack a smile.
I like that concept.
-Danny R. Phillips
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