The Connells – Boylan Heights

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

One of my law school roommates was moderately into the Connells. He had gone to Duke for undergrad, so perhaps that’s where he encountered them. He and I also shared liberal values. My other roommate was a Republican, and he and I had no shared musical tastes. Who ended up being the better friend and roommate? Not the dude from Duke. I, of course, was an immature and impatient, barely-human creature at the time, so I don’t blame anyone for not vibing with me. I think he is a professor now. I still give Andy shit about being a fucking Republican.

What I Think of This Album

The Connells pull off the opposite of the sophomore slump with Boylan Heights, generating an album much better than the debut. Whereas as previously the band sought to convey drama, they never earned it; here, they sound more organic and believable.

The lengthy Celtic intro of “Scotty’s Lament” is very awkwardly grafted on the rest of the song, Mitch Easter falling short of the standard George Martin set. Also, the deep-timbred (and treated?) backing vocals in the verses are hella weird. Fortunately, the rest of the album avoids such problems.

Keyboards-as-strings add some emotion to the serious “Choose a Side,” though the vocals in the chorus help keep things from getting too somber. “Just Like Us” is a fine piece, where the band finally gets everything right. The production touches on near-majestic and almost-instrumental “If It Crumbles” are effective and pretty. “Pawns” is another keeper, with some interesting vocal lilts from Doug MacMillan.

The trumpet on “Over There” makes it one of the two best songs on display, though the chart could’ve used a little more variety, as guest Bill Spencer simply plays the same pattern over and over. The odd time shifts of “Elegance” don’t work for me. The chorus of “Home Today” is the saving grace of a song otherwise weighed down by pedestrian verses; the lengthy Celtic-influenced solo is a bit much (though I appreciate the wah-wah intro). Instrumental “OT2” (that’s supposed to be “squared”) is a decent little tune.

Finally, “I Suppose” is the cream of the crop, perhaps the first great Connells song, with a wonderful melody, reflective vocals, and some excellent guitar work, and the final “Boylan Heights” part of the song is almost a whole other song in itself.

The album is named after a neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was produced by Mitch Easter (Let’s Active). Easter’s bandmate in Let’s Active, Angie Carlson, played the Hammond organ.

The Best Thing About This Album

“I Suppose” takes me all the way to Boylan Heights.

Release Date

1987

The Cover Art

This might be one of the worst album covers I’ve ever seen. Dingy, disorienting, decayed, difficult to discern. Not one thing about this works. What the fuck is going on with the headgear? Why did this band of twenty-somethings dress like 40 year old dads for the photo shoot? What is with the design elements on the right and left margins? And the twigs or whatever towards the top. Jesus. This is a fucking disgrace.

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