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Magnolia Electric Co. - Trials & Errors

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Artist: Magnolia Electric Co.

Album: Trials & Errors

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Feb. 21, 2005

Having dropped his Songs:Ohia moniker, Trials & Errors is Jason Molina’s first release with his new “band” Magnolia Electric Co., a name taken from Songs:Ohia’s last full length album. As with Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co. is little more than Molina with a backing band, and considering its numerous lineup changes since the 2003 live show documented Trials & Errors, the advent of Magnolia Electric Co. brings little change to the Songs:Ohia status quo. Molina’s songs are still long, ragged, a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and his back-up musicians still amble along with all the Crazy Horse fierceness that Molina requires. And just as it seems no review of a Songs:Ohia album could help mentioning Neil Young at least once, Molina himself can’t seem to help directly referencing Young on two separate occasions on Trials and Errors, working both “Out on the Weekend” and “Tonight’s the Night” into his own compositions.

Molina is still a fine songwriter and has mastered his delivery, expressing equal amounts of rage and timidity. Aside from two tracks from Songs:Ohia’s Didn’t it Rain (“Ring the Bell” and “Cross the Road”) and one from Magnolia Electric Co. (“Almost Was Good Enough”), Trials & Errors is all new material, some of which ranks among the best of Molina’s work. Opener “The Dark Don’t Hide It” captures all that is good about Molina’s songs – rollicking, mid-tempo guitar riffs, big choruses, a lyrical fixation (quite literally in this case) on the darkness of the world – and fits it all into a five-minute package (which, in Molina terms, is brevity itself). The official studio version of “The Dark...” and several other tracks from Trials & Errors, which will be released this year on What Comes After the Blues will surely be more focused.

Trials & Errors, in the meantime, could almost pass for a studio effort, if not for the applause between songs. The sound quality is surprisingly clear, with instruments mixed and balanced better than some studio efforts. It will undoubtedly please diehards thirsting for both new and live material. While probably not the best introduction to Jason Molina’s work for newcomers, Trials & Errors does bridge a small section of the Molina catalogue. The past, however, doesn’t seem all that different from the present, or even the future. And many, including Molina himself, are probably fine with that.

By Jon Pitt

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