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The Donkeys - Living On The Other Side

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Artist: The Donkeys

Album: Living On The Other Side

Label: Dead Oceans

Review date: Jul. 29, 2008

The Donkeys make music for late summer, harmonies lofted by the smallest hint of a breeze, tempos dawdling in August sloth, country-lazing guitar lines bubbling up, then subsiding. No effort is required to listen – nor is it rewarded. Living on the Other Side sounds as good the first time through as it's going to, perfectly pleasant but slight. No risk of jolting you out of your hammock at all.

The languid "Dolphin Center" is, perhaps, the best song here, paced at a ramshackle, Band-like shuffle, with torpid blues guitar melting over a fog of organ tones. It's best, actually, if you don't pay much attention to the words. Surely a song this hazily melancholy could find a better way to end the chorus than, "I don't mind the passing weather / I might end up in a Dolphin Center." You might ask, why a Dolphin Center? Why not a community center or a movie theater or possibly a 7-11? No idea. There is nothing in the song to explain it.

And in fact, during the album's best songs, you get the sense that the lyrics are secondary to the point of haphazardness. "Walk Through a Cloud,” which juxtaposes some very nice country-blues guitar against humid breezes of harmony, has only the briefest of verses, mostly about the difficulty of walking through clouds. It's a pretty song, certainly, but almost entirely devoid of brains.

There are other, modestly more specific songs. "Nice Train," for instance, retells the story of when the Donkeys got loaded in a bar and dropped a cell phone into a pool table pocket. Twangy, blues-y, molasses-slow "Downtown Jenny" sketches a girl who is pretty but, for reasons unclear, not welcome round the Donkeys.

But I may be thinking too hard. These songs ought to drift by like ceiling fan breezes, and taste as sweet and ephemeral as lemonade laced with vodka. Living on the Other Side is just about right for late summer, when a seat by the water sounds like a perfectly good plan for the day, when a cheeseburger charred on a grill seems the pinnacle of human cuisine. Keep it that simple, and you'll like the Donkeys fine.

By Jennifer Kelly

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