Greetings From the Side marked the emergence of a remarkable songwriting talent. Gary Jules arrived on this debut fully formed, an insightful lyricist whose words were accompanied by some of the most sad-eyed, exquisite melodies to come out of the decade. In that respect, the album sporadically recalls the finest soft rockers of the early '70s -- no surprise there, since Jules was raised on the era's AM radio staples. He particularly shares a kinship with Paul Simon. Like Simon, Jules has a knack for drawing out the smallest but most compellingly human aspects of his subjects in sketches of uncanny clarity, whether they are complex third-person narratives ("Barstool," "Jeremiah Weed") or introspective examinations. Both artists also write songs with hushed, pensive exteriors that, nevertheless, often belie heart-shattering and hard-learned truths. But these songs unquestionably arise out of a tougher, more cynical age. Jules' soulful, soft-gravel vocals provide his musings with an almost wounded depth. Many of Greetings' songs are lived-in, even scarred, but haven't given up on finding happiness despite all the evidence to the contrary. A displaced, restless mood runs through the music like a thread, an attribute the artist shares with the Counting Crows, which he recalls on "Bluefish" and the beautifully ruminative "Heroes & Heroin." The songs capture individuals who want to change, or at least find something to hold onto. And even when they betray romantic yearnings, they are romantic in the most unflinchingly honest way. Michael Andrews provides a minimalistic but wholly sympathetic and organic production. He mostly allows the songs to do their own selling via pretty acoustic guitars and hazy, sun-fried drums. But the woozy slide guitar passes that he insinuates into the mix also emphasize the music's distinctly southern Californian ambience. There are brief moments when Jules doesn't seem to inhabit his songs quite as fully or that don't seem to cut as close to the bone, perhaps because several compositions date back nearly a decade. Regardless, it is a gorgeous, touching work, one of those albums that is waiting for -- and wholly deserves -- rediscovery.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart