Trembling Blue Stars

The Seven Autumn Flowers

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The Trembling Blue Stars' fifth album, Seven Autumn Flowers, is no great departure for the group; it is another chapter in the story that began way back in the '80s with the Field Mice. If you've stuck with them this far, you won't find anything here to make you walk away now. The core elements of the group (Bob Wratten's bittersweet vocals, near suicidal lyrics, the minor chords, sweeping synths, gently strummed acoustic guitars, and sweet female backing vocals) are firmly in place. In fact, much of the record falls into the same trap their last couple have, that of being too familiar and predictable. Songs like "All I'm Doing Is Losing," "Last Port of Call," (the admittedly quite good) "Sorrow Has a Way," and "Kensington Garden," while as well-constructed, heartfelt, and melodic as they may be, feel like they could have been written (and played) in Wratten's sleep. What saves the record are the handful of songs that break out of the constraints of even-keeled melancholy and take (small) chances: chances like the gentle reggae pulse of "The Rhythm of Your Breathing," the almost danceable beat of "The Sea Is So Quiet," the lilting near-country feel of "Last Port of Call," and best of all, the Beth Arzy-sung "Helen Reddy," which literally jumps out of the speakers with joy and verve. Perhaps leading off the album with this sparkling gem was a mistake since everything else sounds so gray in comparison. By the time you get to the end of the disc, instead of feeling empathy and kinship with Wratten and the TBS, you just feel kind of weary. Life is wearisome enough without having to deal with it on the stereo.

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