Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, the first independently released album by veteran duo the Indigo Girls is an ambitious project that includes a pair of discs designed specifically for fans who want to hear both sides of the group: disc one is a full band version produced by Mitchell Froom, and the second disc contains the same album in stripped-down acoustic form. Musically, it's almost startling to hear how close this set feels to Strange Fire, the pair's debut album issued in 1987. The taut harmonies, the slippery guitars, the band wound loosely around both Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, and textures that flirt with rock, pop, and folk but end up in the slipstream between them. Check the infectious hooky "Love of Our Lives" that strolls somewhere between the tracks on fellow Georgians R.E.M.'s early tracks and the Beatles track "Two of Us," from Let It Be. Then there's the emotive yet utterly naked and introspective "I'll Change," that resembles the primal emotion and self-reflection and criticism of the IG's earliest music. The spunky electric and acoustic guitars and crisp snares on "Ghost of the Gang" add to its poignant evocation of loneliness and spinning one's wheels wishing against hope to be able to get some traction -- even as the pillars and people in one's life begin to slip away. But there's a truly startling moment on this record that feels all new too: the album's opener, "Digging for Your Dream," is a sad song whose refrain: "You take your prospects and your pick axe and you trudge down to the stream, and you bloody your hands digging for your dreams," captures the aspirations of every determined and beaten but unbowed citizen of this and perhaps every land. What's different is the shimmering Fender Rhodes piano, the slippery harmonies that feel more like they come out of urban soul music than the IG's trademark folk-rock, and the atmospheric space between each of the singers and the skeletal backing band. The acoustic disc is mostly a bonus for purists -- though Saliers and Ray probably don't see it that way -- while the band disc is in some ways a return to innocence in the recording process -- what could be more innocent than beginning again on your own label? And the next big step for a group that has restlessly tried to avoid the pitfalls of the music-making journey for nearly 25 years. Poseidon and the Bitter Bug is not only solid all the way through, it feels fresh, clean, new, and chock-full of beauty.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek