Trouble at Jinx Hotel

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Molasses' fourth record, Trouble at Jinx Hotel, impulsively grew from its original intention as a sparse solo release by ringleader Scott Chernoff. On a whim, Chernoff invited 15 musicians to back his cache of new songs and had the group improvise arrangements around them, and though the result is at times quite lovely, the record suffers from the same musical approach being recycled for each of the ten tracks -- an approach that is severely lacking in dynamics. Trouble at Jinx Hotel would have likely stood on stronger legs if its initial concept was upheld as a solo release, since the songwriting is good and direct enough that the songs would have held up very well alone, but as it stands, the extremely reserved primary vision of Chernoff's minimalism chokes beneath a mass of musicians apparently reluctant to tamper with or actively build upon the initial feel of the songs. In other words, by piling unnecessary atmospherics on top, the songs became buried and unapproachable. There are times that the album shines, as on the watery "You Can't Win," but the texture is so stagnant -- especially for a cast with so many instruments at its disposal -- that finding the truly inspired moments is a chore. At best, Trouble at Jinx Hotel is an album for meditation purposes; at worst it is modified easy listening wallpaper for the indie rock community and is difficult to understand from a group that clearly has much to offer.

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