Eleventh Dream Day – Zeroes and Ones

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

After a three-album stint on Atlantic, Eleventh Dream Day returned home to the indies. While they undoubtedly belonged there, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have found success while on a major label. It just didn’t work out, even though El Moodio was probably the most accessible album of their career. The band released Ursa Major in 1994, Eighth in 1997, and Stalled Parade in 2000. I have listened to Stalled Parade and Eighth for sure, and maybe Ursa Major? There are some good songs on there, but overall the band strays too far from their strengths and get too atmospheric for me. It was therefore a relief when Zeroes and Ones arrived. In fairness to the band, they released other albums later in their career that reportedly rock out like in the early days – Riot Now! (2011) and Works for Tomorrow (2015) – but I admit I have not yet given those a listen. I plan to, though.

What I Think of This Album

This is a record I wasn’t sure Eleventh Dream Day would ever make, and I am glad they did.

As much as I am wont to blame Doug McCombs for the change in the band sound on the preceding albums, I have to admit that he does a fine job on bass, particularly on the poppy, tuneful “Dissolution.” That first track also introduces keyboardist/percussionist Mark Greenberg (The Coctails), who succeeds in supplementing the tracks with subtle colorings.

Rick Rizzo throws down his usual excellent guitar, whether it’s the crunching chords that drive “Insincere Inspiration” or the Neil Young-influenced “For Martha” (which begins with a “Be My Baby”-esque drum intro). “Martha” has one of the best (albeit far too short) Eleventh Dream Day solos in a while, and Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean harmonize like their lives depend on it (the overlapping call-and-response segment is fantastic). 

The middle of the album is a little problematic. “New Rules” flows gently, and while Rizzo lays down a solo with some great tones, overall the slow pace is not my cup of tea, and it goes on for almost eight minutes. Greenberg’s vibes/marimba and McCombs’ bass are the best things about the “Lost In the CIty,” which is at least interesting even if not really enjoyable. “Lately I’ve Been Thinking” sounds like the work of disaffected teens, and I can only hope it was done with a wink. “Return of the Long Shadow” is another slow, somber number that suffers from a lack of melody.   

But the clouds clear with Beveridge Bean’s sole lead vocal turn on “The Lure,” which sounds sly and sexy, and benefits from some nasty lead work from Rizzo. Rizzo in turn sounds energized on “From K to Z,” which is punchy and loud. “For Everything” strikes the right balance between the energy of the rockers and the slow build of the more languid tunes. If I let my brain relax a little, I can hear some Wire in this tense, spiky song.

The sleeper track may be “Pinwheels,” on which every band member gives a terrific performance:  McCombs’ bass is elastic and musical, Greenberg adds some pillowy organ, Beveridge Bean and Rizzo harmonize like drunken angels, Beveridge Bean hit the drums with authority, and Rizzo’s guitar adds the right amount of grit  

Closer “Journey WIth No Maps” is another slow song; more importantly, it’s the best slow song of the album. Greenberg introduces piano and mellotron, the vocalists sing a truly pretty melody, and Rizzo plays with admirable restraint (but still that wonderful, fuzzy tone).

Tangents:  I saw the Coctails open for the Pixies on their first reunion tour. The producer for this album was McComb’s bandmate in Tortoise, John McEntire (also of The Sea and Cake).

The Best Thing About This Album

This is the return to form I wanted from Eleventh Dream Day.

Release Date

April, 2006

The Cover Art

Waaaaaayyyyy too on the nose. The artwork on the rest of the album confirms that the images are supposed to be representations of the album title (i.e., circles and vertical lines, though a zero is really an oval, not a circle). I do like the speaker, just because I like speakers. And the font works really well, as does the composition of the text. The orange-red tone (also found on the tray and the back cover) makes me almost ill. I like orange, and I like red, but this in-between shit is no good.

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