Strapping Fieldhands

The Third Kingdom

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Indie bands mixing rock with folk came and went during the six years between Strapping Fieldhands full-lengths, making 2002 as good a time for a comeback as any. It's clear the band didn't spend much of the interim practicing; The Third Kingdom is as chaotic and dense a piece of lo-fi sludge rock as anything they'd recorded before. It's a loose, shambling epic, occasionally recalling the Pogues or Ween's prog-folk opus The Mollusk. Surprisingly, there's nothing as mystical as the Fieldhands' In the Pineys EP, just an opening sea shanty ("Heave Ho"). "Slingshot Sounds," "Bullseye," and "Copper Ring" are the only songs approaching up-tempo pop; many of the others have a willful obstinacy to them, with distorted, untuned guitars and an unhinged organ framing duets between guttural vocals and a higher tenor (reminiscent of the glory days of the David Baker-led Mercury Rev). It's not likely Strapping Fieldhands will convince any Wilco fans with The Third Kingdom, but for fans who've been waiting for another album, there's much fun to be had here.

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