Album Review – The Wishing Chair by 10,000 Maniacs (1985) (Elektra)
Most consider the 1987 album In My Tribe as magnum opus album for the 10,000 Maniacs. In my ‘humble’, but ultimately correct opinion, this undoubtedly makes ‘most’ wrong, for The Wishing Chair is undoubtedly their finest in that it appeals from so many different musical angles.
Initially there is a definitive old world charm to it that drags us back well beyond it’s natural 1980’s home, to an old world place that sees tracks such as Back O’ The Moon (see below), Arbor Day and Just as the Tide was Flowing hinting at the old world jangly folk pop direction that the band would predominantly adopt in the 1990’s.
Such tracks have a beguiling reliance on what appears to be a whole plethora of old 19th century instruments, which I would love to identify if could just be bothered to trawl through untold live Decemberists performances to complete the task.
This album is also undoubtedly their finest for those with a need to satiate a jangle-pop soul. The wonderful Maddox Table (see below) the opening Can’t Ignore the Train and Everyone a Puzzle Lover are perhaps their finest examples of the light and airy jangle-pop sound they band utilized as a conduit to accentuate the beauty of the Natalie Merchant vocal range. All beautiful, they are unsurpassed on their other albums.
Finally the release also excels as it has some of their most muscular bass oriented tracks on it, that include the true album stand out of Scorpio Rising (see below), My Mother the War and Colonel Wing.
These tracks have a rumbling, grumbling quality that eptomises what the best bands of the college rock era (R.E.M / Miracle Legion etc) were doing at the time and with the beautiful intensity and strength of the Merchant vocals and her politically agitated lyrics, these tracks sit extremely comfortably in such exalted company.
Where others may see the increased level of beauty seen on In My Tribe as the reason why such an album should be considered as the 10,000 Maniacs defining moment, the seemingly natural, but the nonetheless extravagant fluctuations in musical stylistics, makes The Wishing Chair their most interesting and beguiling for those who have no need to accommodate a luscious listen.
Back O’ The Moon