This week’s Music Box selection is a record called And The Thieves Are Gone by Joseph Arthur. I knew absolutely nothing about Arthur going into this listen, so I had zero artist-specific preconceived notions aside from an inkling that it might be a little weird based on the cover and booklet art.
And “weird” is a pretty good way to describe this record. Arthur seems to enjoy taking a fairly basic track or song and layering all kinds of extra sounds, textures and sonic craziness on top of them while also singing along in a kind of gravely voice that feels a little more put-on than it needs to be.
From the drone-y, mantra-like “Papa” which kicks off the EP to the the album ender “Glass Pipe,” Arthur explores a lot of strange worlds that will either land with you or not. There wasn’t much for me to grab onto with “Papa,” but I enjoyed the more beat-oriented “Savior Of The Sun” and “Anywhere With You” even though he sounds a bit toasted and off timing-wise. There’s even some great twangy guitar on “My Home Is Your Head.” In fact, there’s a lot of goodness on this record, but then there’s almost always something that comes along to throw me off. Sometimes its the affected-sounding vocals, sometimes it’s a high pitched guitar wail that makes the lizard part of my brain cringe, sometimes it’s a strange sound effect that adds one too many ingredients in the soup and throws the whole thing off for my taste.
After listening to all six tracks, I looked Arthur up on Wikipedia and learned that not only has been been doing this music thing for quite awhile, but he’s known for creating sonic landscapes and layering tracks. I also read that this EP is actually a group of outtakes and extra tracks from Our Shadows Will Remain, which was released earlier the same year. I can’t compare the EP to the full record because I haven’t heard it, but I have noticed as a longtime music listener that there are usually reasons songs don’t make it on albums the first time around. Are there any Joseph Arthur fans out there reading this? How do these six tracks compare to the actual album?
At the end of the day, I think And The Thieves Are Gone just isn’t my bag. Arthur’s clearly an artist with his own point of view and I respect him for that, but this disc didn’t make me want to dive into his discography. It’s not bad, but it does hit a few of my buttons on the irritation elevator. However, if you dig slightly fuzzy vocals and a lot of tracks and sounds layered on top of one another, then this might be the record for you.