Sunday, 17th June 2018. 7:49:11pm ET
Reviews CD Reviews Gothic Rasputina- Frustration Plantation


Artist: Rasputina
CD Title: Frustration Plantation
Label: Instinct
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 4/23/04

For three full-length albums and a number of EPs, Rasputina have managed to do no wrong, cleverly and successfully balancing original cello based chamber rock with ingenious tongue-in-cheek humor. Frustration Plantation, Rasputina's 4th full-length outing, finds the band's new lineup (still centered on songwriter/vocalist/instrumentalist Melora Creager) revamping their innovative cello rock sound and Victorian imagery for an album rooted in the American south circa the early to mid 19th century. While the band's penchant for creating twisted, amusing incarnations of the music of the early 1900s isn't completely gone (you'll still find a cover of the 1930 Vivian Ellis tune "If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love"), the band certainly delved deeply into the musical history of the American south (apparently even going as far as raiding the Library of Congress for traditional lyrics to accompany "Wicked Dickie" and "When I Was a Young Girl"). The result is another brilliantly unique release that leaves the band's record untarnished.

Rasputina fans will notice an evolution in the band's sound on this outing, with more of an emphasis on plucked cello arpeggios and bass lines combined with the usual drums, electronics, and a generous serving of dulcimer. Melora's vocals have also now completely lost most of their earlier trademark vibrato for a more straightforward, melodic delivery. The songwriting often seems more intricate and accomplished, especially on tracks like the epic rocker "Saline the Salt Lake Queen" with its heavy distorted riffs and the blown up, wailing cellos of its theatrical finale. When compared to the band's last album, Cabin Fever, things are considerably less experimental, and there really aren't any tracks that immediately stand out like "Rats" or "AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes" did. However, by the second or third time you listen to the album, you'll realize that this is a more consistent effort completely void of even slightly bad material. Even "Nov. 17dee", a song with lyrics and vocals by Melora's young daughter Hollis, is quite cute and easily bearable (at least in its short album version form…the extended version on the bonus disc is pushing it). You'll also find quite a bit of variety, from the eerie eastern sound of the opening "Doomsday Averted" to the amusingly folksy "When I Was a Young Girl" to the beautiful layered arpeggios and ethereal vibe of "Secret Message" to requisite distorted cello rock tracks like "Possom of the Grotto". "The Mayor" and "Oh, Injury" are also beautifully written and quite noteworthy tracks that will likely grow to become favorites after a few listens.

The album's only real disappointment is the fact that, despite a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek and off-the-wall lyrical content, Frustration Plantation just isn't as humorous as previous Rasputina outings. There really aren't any laugh-out-loud tracks comparable to previous offerings like "Rats" and "Diamond Mind". Even "My Captivity by Savages", the disc's requisite spoken-word comedy sketch, lacks the absurdity and quirkiness of the band's previous tales of cannibalistic pilgrims (huh? the pilgrims), exorcisms, and faked conversations between petty rock starlets. Don't get me wrong, the lyrics are still brilliant and the humor is still there (especially on the tongue-in-cheek folk tracks "Wicked Dickie" and "When I Was a Young Girl"). You just have to look a little harder and might laugh less.

The bonus disc, amusingly titled Poor Relations in the Shed Out Back contains 9 songs, clocking in at about 18 and a half minutes. These include a few outtakes/demos and alternate versions/mixes of songs from Frustration Plantation, one outtake from Cabin Fever, and an extra track or two. It's something of a spotty disc with a few good tracks, nice but somewhat unnecessary alternate versions/mixes (which make up the bulk of the CD's length), and a number of extremely short (some under 30 seconds) and, at times, under-produced recordings/outtakes. The most noteworthy tracks are "Yellow Fever", a Frustration Plantation outtake that's quirkier than anything on the actual album, and "Mr. Romberg", an under-produced but both beautiful and amusing recording of a song from Delibes' Lakme. In short, the disc is a decent bonus that makes it worth picking up a copy of the limited edition version before it's out of print, but it's not exactly a treasure trove of incredible rarities. In other words, those that miss the limited edition release shouldn't beat themselves up too badly.

Overall, Frustration Plantation is another incredible release from an amazing band. It's certainly one of the best new CDs I've heard in the last year or so. Those that are new to Rasputina might be better off starting with one of the band's earlier albums, but fans of the band's other efforts will find yet another spectacular gem in an almost spotless career.


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