When Over the Rhine released their sparsely produced, largely acoustic independent effort Good Dog Bad Dog in 1996, they had not yet given up on their plans to record a more elaborate version of the album. In the end, the group decided that the "home recordings" approach was appropriate for that collection of songs, but when they finally issued a major label follow-up five years later, it was almost as if they were making up for lost time. The appropriately titled Films for Radio has a broad, cinematic scope that makes it the band's most ambitious and lavishly produced record to date. Fans who were introduced to the band through Good Dog may have expected Films to be an intimate arthouse drama, but it proves instead to be something of a slick and unusually intelligent summer blockbuster. The album contains Over the Rhine's first experiments with synthesizers and drum loops, melding edgy special effects into a distinctive art pop brew that continues to be cemented by artfully elliptical lyrics and some of the most engaging melodies in adult alternative music. The synth pop opener "The World Can Wait," for example, sounds like a theme song for a James Bond movie. "The Body Is a Stairway of Skin" is something like Bjork-influenced trip-hop. There is even an energetic Duran Duran-like cover of a Dido tune ("Give Me Strength"). All of that style sometimes overwhelms the substance of the group's unusually substantive songwriting. And perhaps because the album consists of a jumble of material written over a five-year respite from recording, Films for Radio lacks the cohesiveness of its predecessor. Some songs, like the rootsy "Little Blue River" and the Beatles-esque "Goodbye," are a little out of place in the glossy surroundings. Others, like the radio-friendly "Moth," have been dressed in high-tech arrangements that seem a bit strained when compared to earlier, more relaxed performances. The album may be less satisfying for diehard fans than for newcomers who are just discovering the band's exquisitely crafted lit pop sound.
Performance CreditsOver the Rhine Primary Artist
Dave Perkins Guitar,Electric Guitar
Mickey Raphael Harmonica
John Catchings Cello
David Davidson Violin
Linford Detweiler Organ,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Hammond Organ,Electric Piano,Drum Loop
Don Heffington Percussion,Drums
Byron House Bass
Michael Timmins Electric Guitar
Kristin Wilkinson Viola
Pascal Gabriel Keyboards,Loops
Michael Aukofer Dulcimer,Hammered Dulcimer
Terri Templeton Vocal Harmony
Jack Henderson Electric Guitar,12-string Guitar,Lap Steel Guitar
Karen Bergquist Piano,Vocals
Technical CreditsDave Perkins Producer,Engineer
Linford Detweiler Producer,Engineer,Liner Notes,Art Direction,Cello Arrangement
Pascal Gabriel Programming
Michael Wilson Art Direction
Owen Brock Art Direction
Karen Bergquist Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I disagree with the author of the ''B-grade film'' review. For those who know and love OTR, and have been waiting for 5 years or so for their honest-to-goodness follow-up to Good Dog Bad Dog, probably anything would be seen as disappointment to some. Staying in the stripped-down mode of GDBD might be seen as a lack of risk-taking; taking advantage of the studio in a more Eve-like fashion might be seen as compromising their ideals. For a band as serious and above-the-fray, the latter is a bigger risk, but one the band has taken. Successfully. Yes, there are drum loops on some songs. In about half the numbers the canvas is broader than anything the band has previously recorded. Do not be fooled, though - there are still moments of great delicacy and intimacy. And the band has hardly sold out. My feeling upon listening is that of a summing up, a taking stock of the past - as well as a careful eye to the future. In some ways this album marries the studio polish of Eve to the mature, more introspective songs of GDBD, while simultaneously posing the question of where the band goes from here. OTR is now simply Karin and Linford, with whatever collaborators they choose to take on. What does this mean for the band? Films For Radio does not necessarily answer the question, but there is a feeling of new areas being charted, new territory mapped. Suffice it to say that any longtime OTR fan will find themselves both cheered and disappointed but different aspects of the album, depending on what they were hoping for. But any OTR fan would be a fool to deny themselves the pleasures of the best songs here. Karin's best singing yet. Some songs that stand up as well as anything in their catalog. Heck, it's a new OTR album! Why haven't you bought it yet?
When so much of modern music is mere drivel, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, the husband and wife team that lead OtR, produce music that is nothing short of brilliant. Thought provoking lyrics, excellent musicianship, heartfelt vocals--these are hallmarks of what OtR fans have come to expect, and ''Films for Radio'' does not disappoint. It takes a different direction from the excellent ''Good Dog Bad Dog,'' but musicians need to continually challenge themselves, as OtR does here. ''The World Can Wait,'' the opening track, sets the CD's theme and is a powerful song with terrific lyrics. The group chose the Dido cover ''Give Me Strength'' as the first single and it is easy to understand why. Karin's vocals are heartfelt and the tune is catchy. For those who like a little bit of drum loop and sampling, ''The Body is a Stairway of Skin'' is easily satisfiable. ''Little Blue River'' and the closing track ''When I Go'' (whcich features an excellent guitar solo by Cowboy Junkies' Michael Timmins) are, in my book, the CD''s two strongest tracks. The first defines all the strengths of OtR: catchy vocals, great keyboards, strong lyrics. The latter is a tour de force for Karin's exquisite vocals and excellent playing on acoustic guitar. She sings this one from the depths of her soul. Over the Rhine, in a perfect and just world, would sell millions of CDs with each release. But for those who have discovered this amazingly talented group, this CD allows them to take another step in their musical journey. And I, for one, am more than thrilled to accompany them on that journey.
Over the Rhine never ceases to amaze me. In 'Films for Radio', they've produced another album that is absolutely full of great songs. Have you ever bought an album because you liked one song, and the rest you just felt were pretty much throw-away tracks? OTR has never made such an album, and 'Films for Radio' is certainly no exception. It's very different than their last release, Good Dog Bad Dog, but on the other hand, Good Dog Bad Dog was a lot different than the release before that, Eve (and, incidentally, they produced three independent compilations in between there that were also great). They continue to explore new genres, new styles, and new sounds. And they never fail to amaze the listener.
Over The Rhine is a group (most usually a duo) that I've liked for a number of years. Their previous CD, 'Good Dog Bad Dog' is one of the few CDs that never leaves my CD changer. 'Films For Radio' comes off as a disappointment, though, compared to 'Good Dog Bad Dog'. This album is more cluttered, as if the sparse but intentional music of the previous album was too risky to try again, or maybe they didn't trust themselves. While simply repeating a successful formula isn't worthwhile, veering too far out of your strenghts isn't often a good idea either. 'Films' suffers from music overkill, one has the feeling that everyone who showed up at the Grey Ghost and said 'I want to be on this song too' was written in. To make matters worse Linford Detweiler, ususally very savvy about his music, so over-uses the Hammond Organ that you cringe when you hear it start up on yet another song. On their previous album they made masterful use of piano and cello and little else--on 'Films' about the only instrument not present is the harmonica (although I may have to check the song notes more closely on that one). There's way too much going on, way too much that needs to be stripped out. If I only had access to the tracks that make up 'Fairpoint Diary' and were allowed to cut away at will there would be a great song there, hidden underneath the noise and 'written in 5 minutes' musical blanket. Karin Bergquist's excellent vocals get lost in the invasive music which seems to clamber over everything and her vocals seem to be pushed further back in the mix so that we would be sure to hear that all of their friends made it onto the album. Much of the time it doesn't sound like the lyrics and music were thought of at the same time. The lyrics keep the same semi-confessional, emotionally driven feeling they had on 'Good Dog' but the music seems like it was thrown in afterwards and sounds like most rookie alternative bands with no regard to the mood of the vocals and the content of the lyrics. The combination is disjointed and disappointing. Many tracks don't sound like they would come from this usually sharp duo but rather the easily forgettable adventure of some new, unschooled band creating a common disaster, to borrow a title from OTR's buddies The Cowboy Junkies. You worry that you might be feeling the ugly creep of the marketing machine for Virgin working it's way in. There are more band photos in the album booklet than on the band's excellently (independently) crafted website. There's more sincerity and artistry in their website than in the album booklet. It's possible that Virgin might just rip this band from it's roots much like it did OMD in the late 80's, a tragedy from which OMD never recovered. While Virgin was tactful enough to bank on the band's strengths for the re-release of 'Good Dog' they've either pushed the band to edge towards commercialism or the band feels the pressure of being watched by the commercial giant. In it's own right this album is ok ('The World Can Wait' is unquestionably the standout track, and a very good one!), but knowing what this duo's done in the past makes it hard to grade this album in it's own right. One can only hope that this is just a stumbling (much like the dreadful U2 album 'Pop') and that the band will return to form.