July 2001

The Cash Brothers - How Was Tomorrow
ZoŽ 01143 1019-2
Released: 2001

by Marc Rigrodsky
marcr@soundstage.com

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment *****

[Reviewed on CD]Don’t be fooled by the title. The Cash Brothers’ How Was Tomorrow has no connection to trippy ‘60s psychedelia or late ‘70s punk snottiness. Or Johnny Cash. It’s basically good old-fashioned guitar rock, with hints of Byrds- or Tom Petty-like jangle and some country twang.

The Brothers are an interesting concept. They were both in their own bands for years. Then, one fateful day several years ago, they came up with the idea that maybe they could play together. In reality, the idea of joining forces was not a "duh" waiting to happen. Neither Andrew nor Peter Cash has a great singing voice. Their harmonizing takes some getting used to before it becomes enjoyable. But, after awhile, they begin to complement each other. Think the BoDeans meet the Davies brothers (without the hatefulness).

The Cash Brothers and their assorted sideman play very competent, unflashy rock. The emphasis is on the lyrics. There is no flashy guitar work or gimmicky arrangements to clutter the songs. Even the hooks are restrained; there is nothing anthem-like about any of the material on How Was Tomorrow.

OK, you say, so the boys are lyrical. Do they succeed in the gray-matter department? Sometimes. "Nebraska" incorporates by reference the great Springsteen album of the same name, evoking the pathos of that record and embellishing on it deftly. "Well tonight I should be lying in a never ending kiss / But I’m alone on this dark road listening to ‘Nebraska’" conjures a powerful image for anyone familiar with the Springsteen classic. "Night Shift Guru" captures wonderfully the so-pathetic-it’s-funny life of guy working the graveyard shift at the local convenience store: "And I’m watching myself performing on TV / And it’s an 8 by 10 7/11 screen / And I’m punching in potato chips / And sugared water and cigarettes and dream magazines." Of course, one could take this as a poke at the banality of those of us (and you know who you are) who buy this kind of garbage at some unwholesome hour. On further reflection, I think I will.

Unfortunately, the Brothers sometimes rely on trite rhymes to make their points. On "Raceway," they croon "I’m standing at the raceway / And I’m singing a song / I’m standing at the raceway / Knowing soon I’ll be gone." Too bad, because the raceway could have been an excellent metaphor, but it’s hard to take metaphors seriously when you’re cringing. "Awkward Game" contains this groaner: "Playing that awkward game / Saying things are fine / But knowing deep down / It’s gonna take time." And one last complaint before I sum up: the last track, "Dream Awake," is for Styx fans only. ‘Nuff said.

OK, before you guys start on me with the hate e-mail (the Brothers seem to have a devoted following), let me say this: I liked the record. It’s good, solid rock that on occasion has something interesting to say. The Brothers won’t bore you or lose your attention. On the other hand, they are not in the same league in terms of songwriting or musicianship with top-shelf contemporaries like the Old 97's (if you haven’t purchased their new Satellite Rides album, do so immediately or I will be very angry). If you have your expectations straight, How Was Tomorrow will be a very satisfying album. Now, to quote the mighty Slobberbone, "that is all, go away."


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