Eleventh Dream Day – Lived to Tell

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

Signed to a major on the strength of their excellent debut, Eleventh Dream Day did themselves no favors by turning in a disappointing second effort with Beet. While Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean wrote lyrics that could easily populate a short story anthology, the music was lackluster and unimaginative. Fortunately, they righted things with the unassuming Lived to Tell. At some point in the band’s history, Rizzo and Beveridge Bean married and had a child – I just don’t know when that happened.

What I Think of This Album

Eleventh Dream Day returned to Kentucky to record Lived to Tell, and that may have made all the difference. While it is not as noisy or dread-inducing as Prairie School Freakout, this third album finds the band on familiar turf, refocusing on their strengths. The songs are compact, melodic, heartfelt, and reflect an organic expansion of the band’s sound. 

Janet Beveridge Bean throws down the gauntlet with the rousing, churning “Rose of Jericho,” a propulsive tune that tells an unexpected story of one Melissa and her inscrutable but unmistakable act of liberation involving a glass vase. Beveridge Bean and Rick Rizzo harmonize on key parts of the verses, and the guitars mimic Melissa’s ascension; the solo at the end is excellent. The Rizzo/Beveridge Bean collaboration “It’s All a Game” incorporates a good helping of pop into the countryish song of a faltering relationship that also features the most overtly Neil Young solo of the album.

Rizzo delivers on the biblically apocalyptic “North of Wasteland.” The guitar solo kicks ass, frankly. As on “Jericho,” Beveridge Bean’s intermittent harmonies add a glistening new dimension. Indeed, the angelic vocals and pretty melody that Beveridge Bean graces us with on “Daedalus” are the biggest surprise of the record. Notably, the band incorporates cello, calliope, and some spoken word/found sound on this excellent track as well.

Baird Figi’s downright demonic lapsteel is the defining feature of the punishing “Dream of a Sleeping Sheep,” on which Rizzo, deciding that contemplating death is too half-hearted, invites it with open arms. That lapsteel, though – Jesus Christ. Similarly intense is “Strung Up and/or Out,” which is unapologetically lacerating. 

Beveridge Bean admonishes someone on “You Know What It Is,” which has a punk intensity even while the guitars practice unusual restraint. The recording of this track sounds out of place with the other songs – it’s thin and distant, which is at best distracting and at worst detrimental. This song deserved better. 

X appears to be the touchstone for the frantic and brief “Trouble,” which is the better of the two Figi-penned songs on the album. Another surprise is the acoustic turn on closer “Angels Spread Your Wings,” complete with mournful harmonica from Rizzo. 

“I Could Be Lost” is a decent rocker that doesn’t sufficiently develop musically, unfortunately. Rizzo sets a short story to long music on “It’s Not My World.” The languid (exhausted?) guitar workout that starts at around minute 3:00 is the best thing about this song, and I think I can hear some nice tremolo work in there, too. 

Similarly, Beveridge Bean’s “There’s This Thing” is like Tom Waits reading a Jim Thompson story:  great lyrics, but the music doesn’t do much for me. The guest saxophone adds a new touch. Bassist Doug McCombs’s “Frozen Mile” is repetitive and irritating. Rizzo and Baird do what they can to make this interesting but to no avail.

Twiddling the knobs this time was Paul McKenna, who has had a diverse career working with the Cramps, the Circle Jerks, the Long Ryders, and Wall of Voodoo, but also Elton John, Barry Manilow, and Sting.

The Best Thing About This Album

The return to form.

Release Date

1991

The Cover Art

I don’t like a single thing about this. The painting was by Beveridge Bean’s partner in Freakwater, Catherine Irwin. This image is of some alternate release insofar as mine does not have that text on the left margin.

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