The Gena Rowlands Band

The Nitrate Hymnal

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Though the sleeve of The Nitrate Hymnal credits both the Gena Rowlands Band and Anti-Social Music, the story is a bit more complicated than that. In its original form, The Nitrate Hymnal was a "post-punk opera" composed by Gena Rowlands Band leader Bob Massey in collaboration with filmmaker/librettist David Wilson; this album takes the score of that opera and transforms it into a series of art pop songs scored for Massey's combo and the chamber music ensemble Anti-Social Music. The results are somewhere between the elegant instrumental attack of Rachel's and David Byrne's The Catherine Wheel, but slightly less interesting than either. Subtracted from Wilson's visuals and the overall arc of the story, the songs' lyrics come off as pretentious and impenetrable, and the music is adequate but unspectacular post-rock that does little new or different with the form. Like the cast album from a Broadway play one hasn't actually seen, The Nitrate Hymnal feels unsatisfyingly incomplete.

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