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Turning Lead Into Gold with the High Confessions
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  • Personnel: Dallas Thomas (guitar).
  • Recording information: Semaphore, Chicago.
  • The burst of attention the High Confessions initially received due to their supergroup nature set up understandable expectations -- would they be more like Sonic Youth due to Steve Shelley's participation? Like Chris Connelly's varied solo career? Something else entirely? The greatest strength of Turning Lead into Gold might be its resolute avoidance of easy slotting -- it's clearly the product of all participants and yet ends up as a little something else in the end. The first song, "Mistaken for Cops," is a fairly straightforward affair -- four minutes of what could be a disaffected Velvet Underground song, with Shelley's drumming hinting at Mo Tucker's primal stomp without replicating it. With "Along Come the Dogs," though, the remainder of Turning Lead into Gold becomes rather more cryptic, with all three songs running over ten minutes long and exploring moodiness above all else. "Along Come the Dogs" itself consists mostly of a series of overlaid spoken word and semi-ranted sections over an equally stripped-down piece that's part minimal synth/feedback hum and zone and part distanced drums. It turns into a more active, quicker song as it progresses, a steady rumble and singsong mantra that eventually ditches the lyrics to turn into what sounds like a meaner take on early Neu! "The Listener" takes another turn and is perhaps the most obviously Connelly-led track. Thanks to his dramatic singing and the ominous piano, the song almost comes across as a companion piece to Scott Walker's "The Electrician," no surprise given Connelly's open embrace of Walker as a longtime role model. Finally, "Dead Tenements" concludes on the harshest overall note, with swells of stretched-out guitar howls and drones via Sanford Parker and a declamatory vocal set over a steady drum punch that suddenly turns increasingly explosive. A strange, unsettled album, Turning Lead into Gold is all the more fascinating for it. ~ Ned Raggett
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