The Spoils of War

The Spoils of War II

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A catchall follow-up album to the band's self-titled debut, The Spoils of War II has had a couple of incarnations over the years, most recently as a CD on the Shadoks label, which also reissued the first album. In any form, it's more of a murky curio than anything else, though those inclined to the band's way around sassy late-'60s pop occasionally spiked with odd freakouts and cut-ups will enjoy it well enough. The liner notes are lacking outside of general observations from bandleader Jim Cuomo and a note that the final songs are from a concert, but the personnel breakdown indicates that the compositions were recorded by many differing versions of the group, Cuomo being the sole constant. Cuomo's own vocals are slightly strained affairs but when restrained in the arrangements, as with "In Again Out Again" (at least in the chorus) it's not so bad. (Admittedly, the bit where he suddenly sings "You should pull your mother" in "Missed Opportunity" is great intentional comedy, especially with the slightly goony music.) In contrast, singer Annie Hat, though she only features on a few songs near the start, provides the right kind of counterbalance to the sometimes competent but not gripping tunes. Hat's take on the mock medievalisms of "Frosted Windows" -- a short song but easily one of the album's best, thanks also to Frank Garvey's drums -- is a particular treat. Cuomo comes out best on his experiments with a wide variety of instruments -- options include organ, sax, and domra -- and while the songs rarely sound non-Western as such, his work does liven up the arrangements. The live tracks near the end include one number called "Big City Frank's Drum Solo," which just about says it all (though Cuomo does add organ while other bandmembers also contribute).

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