Minnesota's Cloud Cult were at their most prolific in 2003 and 2004 -- between two albums released just six months apart they offered the world 35 tracks in total, demonstrating their adept and unique indie rock formula. While neither album had the cohesiveness of the follow-up, 2005's Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus, they progressively refined the Cloud Cult ethos, a mixture of bleary-eyed and defiant existentialism, commune-hippie ethics, and punky D.I.Y. aesthetics. In all its prolificacy, there are a modicum of throwaway tracks on They Live on the Sun ("Da Dum," "Toys in the Attic," "It's Gay," "Shortenin' Bread," "Three Times a Lady"), but one suspects they are there to balance the palpable heaviness of bulk of the album. For anyone familiar with bandleader Craig Minowa's back story -- primarily relating to the untimely death of his toddler son, to whom this album is dedicated -- songs like "Took You for Granted," "I'm Not Gone," and the closing piano solo, "Sleeping Days, Pt. 2," are gut-wrenching, and when the recorded snippets of his late son's voice are juxtaposed with Minowa's sobs of "I miss you," it would be hard to imagine anyone listening to this with a dry eye. Most tracks achieve epic catharsis with an exhilarating blend of scrappy lo-fi guitar, amateur electronics, mournful cello, and group-shouted vocals, and songs like "On the Sun," "Moon's Thought," and "It" burn with hope and empathy while some take a darker turn, like "Estupido," with its scathing indictment of a friend or former lover's tawdry affairs: "He's a gigolo with his serpent down your throat." But with few exceptions, this collection is focused on life, death, and loss, and it boggles the imagination how an artist could bounce back from devastating tragedy with a body of work that is ultimately so uplifting. Rather than exploit the pathos, Minowa prefers to live on with the oblique faith that we will all meet again one day on the Sun.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Brian Way