As the title implies, Rasputina's fourth album Frustration Plantation is a loosely conceptual work that introduces Southern influences into the group's witchy chamber rock. Indeed, the band even went to the lengths of researching the album by referencing the Library of Congress' history of Southern song and their daguerreotypes from that era, as well as visiting former plantations and dressing up in period costumes. The idea of mixing eerie, Deliverance-style Southern ambience with Rasputina's aesthetic is an inspired one, and it results in their strongest work to date. Frustration Plantation gets off to a strong start with the spooky, dulcimer-driven "Doomsday Averted," on which Melora Creager's voice echoes like she's singing in a swamp, and the folky torch song "Secret Message," which is possibly the album's prettiest moment. As stylized as these songs are, they still don't quite prepare the listener for the rest of Frustration Plantation, which plays the band's wit and theatricality to the hilt. Sometimes this approach stumbles a little, as on the rather slight "Possum of the Grotto" and "High on Life," but more often than not it works well, especially on the punky cover of one of the 1920s' sassiest songs, "If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love." "Saline, the Salt Lake Queen," a song about a girl made of salt, and "Girl's School," a pointed commentary on the repression and education of girls and young women that's nearly as relevant to the 21st century as it is to the 19th, are two of the other immediate standouts. Frustration Plantation's clever lyrics and theatrical presentation -- which rival those of the like-minded but even more out-there Tiger Lillies -- also make themselves felt in odd vignettes such as "Wicked Dickie," which relates the love between a man and his cow, the bluesy tale of woe "Oh, Injury," and "When I Was a Young Girl," which, not coincidentally, are among the most traditional-sounding songs on the album. Stranger yet are tracks like the field recordings-collage "When I Count...," which is so interesting that it's a pity that the band didn't use this sound on the album more often, and the extremely creepy "November 17dee," which features childlike singing and some very surreal lyrics (both attributed to a "Hollis Lane"). In all, Frustration Plantation is a far cry from alt-country and the recent old-timey music revival, but what Rasputina does with their songs of the South is nothing less than fascinating.
Frustration Plantation Review
by Heather Phares