Stephen Brodsky - The Black Ribbon Award (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Stephen Brodsky

The Black Ribbon Award (2008)

Hydra Head

Stephen Brodsky may be one of the most prolific songwriters operating on an utterly non-mainstream level, but like any good-natured artist who lets his thoughts and ideas stream freely from his consciousness, dude sometimes suffers from a serious lack of creative control.

His 18-song debut under the new Stove Bredsky moniker, The Black Ribbon Award is a 55:55 collection of tunes Brodsky wrote in the `90s but only recently got around to recording. Sometimes enjoyable but often middling, The Black Ribbon Award largely comes off like acid-soaked late Elliott Smith recordings spun through early Sub Pop sobriety.

The early portion of the record immediately serves forth proof of these inconsistencies. "Dead of Winter" and "May Fly" bear interesting sonic nuances thanks to the record's production (which ranges from the brooding, jagged lo-fi style sketches of From a Basement on the Hill to the claustrophobic echo and sneer of old Modest Mouse records), but the fuzz and bass dirge of the four-minute "Dead Battery" gets old fast. "Spacegirl Saturn" cough up a few bright moments, but otherwise floats by innocuously.

Later on, Brodsky gets his trippy Beatles fetish on with "Rainbow No More." The next few songs provide the album's curious aesthetic to a decent degree, but the songwriting can't push through to make much of a dent. "The Coattail Rider" merely squeals and squalors by, while "Chine" alternates between unsettling choral cooing and Brodsky's disgruntled, muttering acoustic-picked narratives. Like its flimsy intro, the album closes with a flittering instrumental involving acoustic strums and shots of spacey, sparse electronic skittering.

The Black Ribbon Award isn't quite the one-man trip I'd expect after such solid efforts from Brodksy as the Pet Genius or Octave Museum records, occasionally unfocused and too often mere white noise.

The Black Ribbon Award