The Palace at 4 A.M.

Jay Bennett

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The Palace at 4 A.M. Review

by Zac Johnson

The Chicago-based duo of Jay Bennett and Edward Burch compile an admirable but ultimately unspectacular set of songs on their 2002 release The Palace at 4 A.M.. These 15 earthy pop ballads will interest Wilco fans in particular, who may sit straining to hear any of the reasons Bennett left the group, trying to decide whether it was worth it. One thing that is undeniably clear is the multi-instrumentalist's exceptional abilities in the producer's chair; his richly textured arrangements shimmer and pulse with a life of their own. It is evident in the mellotron hums and tubular bell chimes that Bennett had his hand in much (possibly most) of the arrangements on Summerteeth, and his absence may bode ill for future Wilco releases. The Palace at 4 A.M. unfortunately suffers from a couple of flaws, not least of which are the only average singing voices of Bennett and his collaborator, Edward Burch. While there is nothing technically wrong with the way they sing, the melodies are for the most part breathy and monotone, no match at all for the musical fireworks going on behind them. Another problem with this seven-year songwriting team is the fact that they seem to have a very similar musical vision; while this may lend itself to refreshing amiability in the studio, it makes for a rather sparkless finished product. Points deserving attention include a pair of Woody Guthrie-penned songs that never made it to the Mermaid Avenue albums, a version of "My Darlin'" which also appeared on Summerteeth in a fairly different form, and the atypically upbeat "Talk to Me," which stands out among some of the darker material on the disc. Much like Jeff Tweedy's Chelsea Walls soundtrack, The Palace at 4 A.M. may interest curious fans and pop aficionados, but the album probably won't make it into most people's heavy rotation.

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