At this point in Edwin McCain's career, it's clear that he has no plans to deviate from the folk-pop aesthetic he's embraced since his debut, Honor Among Thieves, but instead will spend his time continuing to rehash the light, jangly music that dominated the light rock airwaves in the early to mid-'90s. While this is not necessarily a terrible quality, it does sound as if McCain is only flitting through the motions on Scream & Whisper, lyrically illustrating his fall from major-label status with bland, throwaway lyrics on no less than four tracks (a case could also be made for McCain's coming-of-age approach in "Farewell to Tinkerbell," which would round out the number at five). His vague references to these apparently troublesome days come along in simple rhymes such as in the opening track, "Coming Down," where he states, "Your mom and dad have missed you and I'm sure your friends agree/There's no substitute of solitude and anonymity." Later in the song, McCain blows any chance of driving home the point he tries to reiterate in each of these label-story tracks -- which is his comfort and optimism in his new, less public life -- when he inexplicably changes from third person to first person and fishes for pity: "When I'm a million miles away, will no one even care?" The trouble with this is not that McCain might be experiencing conflict readjusting to a new pace, or that he feels slighted by the industry, but that it feels as though he's not being honest with the listener. He never taps the anger or hurt that seems to be dogging him, but instead relies on a series of clichés (plenty of references to the dazzling starry sky and burdensome locks and chains pepper the album), which he oddly addresses in the song "Say Anything" with the lyric, "It's not that the words aren't there but they'd only fail my emotions/Just want to feel this way without chaining you down to some old cliché." While many of these lyrics could be overlooked in favor of the music, Scream & Whisper doesn't hold enough musical diversity to lead the listener away from noticing these lyrical blights. It is a shame, because McCain can write a good hook, as on the catchy "Shooting Stars," but there are too many songs on Scream & Whisper in almost the exact same tempo and key for it to truly stand out.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh
feat: Maia Sharp