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from the porch
Artist: Ticklepenny Corner
Label: Indie
Length: 11 tracks/46:04 minutes

From the very first listen, it'd be too easy to compare Ticklepenny Corner to Over the Rhine's more playful moments.  The two bands share many similarities; poetic lyrics, acoustic-tinged semi-folk with equal amounts of joy and sorrow, and a sensibility that's artistic without being pretentious, thoughtful without being self-absorbed.  Heck, the album was even produced by Ric Hordinski (former guitarist for Over The Rhine), who also plays on the album.  And while we're at it, we could go ahead and make comparisons to Vigilantes of Love and Victoria Williams or even Ani DiFranco.

But such comparisons are unfair, because Ticklepenny Corner's music easily stands on its own.  There's a natural honesty and loose spontaneity at work here.  The mood of the album moves from playful ("Up") to forlorn ("I Shall Never Doubt") to spiritual ("(Reprise)") without ever feeling forced. Even when Noah Riemer sings potentially clumsy lines like "To umpteen anonymous groups I've committed/realizing the first step is simply 'realization'/and heart seems to pump a little slower as of late/my arteries clogged full of disdain and full of hate" in his Bill Mallonnee-meets-Michael Knott voice, every word feels deeply honest.

Ticklepenny's ruminations on faith are as simple as those of Pedro the Lion's, though said with more flowery language.  Ticklepenny doesn't seem intent on painting broad theological truths, but rather, seems more interested in discussing faith as the personal, heartfelt statement it should be.  That's why songs like "From My Point of View" and "(Reprise)" are the album's high points.  Lyrics like "Sometimes my mind likes to think on its own/but you remind me/and you remind me/earth had peace when peace came down to earth/so what's distinguished cannot be extinguished/when the Lord writes with His flaming pen" may seem trite, but when paired with Beth Riemer's soulful voice, they take on an added depth and strength.

At first, I wasn't sure I'd like this album.  At times, it falls into a musical terrain that seems resigned to coffeehouses and poetry readings, to simply fade into the background while people enjoy their overpriced tea and the artsy-fartsy atmosphere.  But to leave it at that is unfair, because after several long, hard listens, one sees how lovely this simply, unassuming album can be.  "From the Porch" is a definite oddity considering my normal listening fare of post-rock and twisted electronica.  But there's something about Ticklepenny Corner and their music, something often compelling in the simple graces exhibited throughout so much of the album.

Jason Morehead 2/8/2000


Jason Morehead is also the publisher of Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at http://www.opuszine.com
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