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Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 7.5
Production 7
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 6.5
Reviewer Tilt 6.5
Final Verdict: 72%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 8.3
Lyrics 8.6
Production 7.8
Creativity 7.55
Lasting Value 7.4
Reviewer Tilt 8.15
Average: 81%

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Reviewed by: Matthew Tsai (04/05/11)
Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
Record Label: 4AD


I’m a progressivist, most of the time. I like that Thrice busted out of their punk cocoon to experiment with more “grown-up” genres. I like the wild genre swerves Brand New take with each new album. I like how Portugal. The Man are two completely different bands on Waiter: “You Vultures!” and The Satanic Satanist. But this “new” Iron & Wine, all bedazzled in electronics and vivid roots instruments? I’m not so sure. See, Kiss Each Other Clean is loud compared to what we’re used to from Sam Beam, which could’ve been a welcome change if not for the fact that it seems to bury everything we’ve come to know and love from him.

Not that the album has gutted any semblance of quality, of course. This is, after all, Iron & Wine we’re talking about; we can still expect some ear candy even in Beam’s most subpar. Kiss Each Other Clean has its fair share of those, and I would go as far as to say every track qualifies. The happy-go-lucky sax in “Me and Lazarus,” the doo-wop’s in “Half Moon,” the bombastic funk of “Big Burned Hand” – it all sounds nice and pleasant.

But herein lies the problem: What made (makes) Beam great was his ability to move past “nice and pleasant” and haunt our hearts. “Fever Dream” (from Our Endless Numbered Days) is a beautiful tune, but when it begs “I want your flowers like babies want God’s love, or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come,” it’s enough to make you cry. “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” (from Shepherd’s Dog) is drop dead gorgeous, but also unashamedly vulgar when it describes “warm poison rats” that “curl through the wide fence cracks pissing on magazine photos.” In contrast, the glittery production and busier instrumentation quells a lot of that emotion here.

The best example might be “Walking Far From Home,” which loops a four-chord motif for its duration, piling on more electronics every thirty seconds. It’s a pretty song with pretty lyrics, but it loses any potential to make a genuine impact the moment Beam’s distorted vocals enter the scene. The song’s fuzzy sonic just makes it too synthetic – like the producer was offered to take home a swimsuit model but opted for a Barbie instead. Words ripe with poignancy get lost among all the background effects, and we’re left with a pleasant but forgettable piece.

Most of the rest of the album falls victim to the same problem. “Tree By the River” and “Godless Brother In Love” are exceptions, but they’re only two tracks, leaving Kiss Each Other Clean feeling empty. And I’m not trying to bash the album here, because if anything, I like Kiss Each Other Clean. It’s enjoyable and frequently beautiful – just not up to par with the lofty standard that burdens Iron & Wine. It’s not memorable because it doesn’t have the signature “Sam Beam spook,” which will likely exile it to the backseat of his discography. But I don’t think Beam needs to abandon this new direction he’s heading in either. It may take a few albums for him to perfect the new sound, and we should expect that, keeping in mind that when he does, the results may very well be awe-inspiring. At the moment, however, Kiss Each Other Clean just isn’t there yet.

Recommended If You LikeSufjan Steven's The Age of Adz, Bright Eyes' The People's Key, William Fitzsimmons
Track list1. Walking Far From Home
2. Me and Lazarus
3. Tree By the River
4. Monkeys Uptown
5. Half Moon
6. Rabbit Will Run
7. Godless Brother In Love
8. Big Burned Hand
9. Glad Man Singing
10. Your Fake Name Is Good

Find Iron & Wine on AP.net.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 27
11:11 PM on 04/05/11
#2
NateFoundGlory
Why do you stay till you see blood?
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I fucking love this album, but I get what you're saying about it's flaws, sometimes it gets a bit...complex, I guess? Might not be the right way to describe it, but damn is it a great cd nonetheless. Great review, man.
11:12 PM on 04/05/11
#3
FUCKDIRTYWIPES
Kicking it middle school
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great album.
11:14 PM on 04/05/11
#4
salmarnirecho
several.
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"Rabbit Will Run" & "Walking Far from Home" are two of my favorite songs of the year so far. Definitely some subpar spots on this album though.
11:21 PM on 04/05/11
#5
dru
i know i got my issues...
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loved this album, enjoyed your review.
11:26 PM on 04/05/11
#6
CheckeredFloors
nah
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Album felt way too clustered. Pretty disappointed with it.
11:28 PM on 04/05/11
#7
ibelieveinjake
i have a headache
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Actually, I'd have to disagree. I think the expansion of his sound is really tasteful and for the most part, he knows when he's gone far enough. Big Burned Hand and Rabbit are two that didn't sit right with me because of that, but the rest of the album is gorgeous. Perfect sense of melody. Perfect.

By the way, Walking Far From Home might be the best visual image he's painted in a while.
11:36 PM on 04/05/11
#8
NateFoundGlory
Why do you stay till you see blood?
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Actually, I'd have to disagree. I think the expansion of his sound is really tasteful and for the most part, he knows when he's gone far enough. Big Burned Hand and Rabbit are two that didn't sit right with me because of that, but the rest of the album is gorgeous. Perfect sense of melody. Perfect.

By the way, Walking Far From Home might be the best visual image he's painted in a while.
I went on an actual walk while listening to this cd, and during that song, I'm pretty sure I ended up in the next town over on accident because of how little attention to my surroundings I was paying haha.
01:45 AM on 04/06/11
#9
drudo182
You Are Not Alone
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While I like this album and I'm all for change, I can't help but miss the sound that made me fall in love with Sam in the first place. Hoping we get that again at some point.
04:45 AM on 04/06/11
introduction
You're not real musician!
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Don't get me wrong, your review is really well written, but I for one loved this album, and while I hope he goes back to his roots one day, I definitely don't mind this type of progression either.
05:42 AM on 04/06/11
brook183
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Love this album. I thought it was a natural progression for the band, and it suited Sam Beam's lyrical and vocal stylings quite nicely.
05:52 AM on 04/06/11
Dr. Acula
www.twitter.com/ericflaris
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Very good review and I agree with most of it. This record just seems like a bit of a cluster fuck. Long on ambition and short on actual songwriting. However, "Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me" is a fantastic song. Sam always knows how to end a record.
06:06 AM on 04/06/11
losnoufy
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I disagree with most of this. I feel like Beam when slightly overboard at times with The Shepherd's Dog, although I love that album, and he came much closer to perfecting the sound on Kiss Each Other Clean. The distorted synth in "Walking Far From Home" is downright ballsy...it's my favorite part of the song, one of my favorite parts of the album. I appreciate that you explain your opinion though...I can see how the album could rub some people the wrong way. It's all in what you expect from it.
06:59 AM on 04/06/11
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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Delayed reaction, but I completely agree with almost everything you said, even though I love Walking Far From Home. It's a good album, and I think some of the funkier tracks are better than you give them credit for (the closer, for example, isn't an emotionally moving exercise, but it's a damn good track). Still, when I hear Godless Brother in Love, this incredible, sweeping bit of balladry, it's hard not to want an album full of something similar, which is something that never happened in the past.
07:13 AM on 04/06/11
vivatoto56
EB was left out
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Walking Far From Home and Monkey's Uptown are some of his best work.

Well written review.
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