“Love Ain’t a Cliche”
“Love Ain’t a Cliche,” the third album from the Minneapolis-based band Dan Israel and the Cultivators, successfully lives up to the tradition set by Twin Cities indie rockers from The Replacements to Soul Asylum to the Jayhawks to Bob Mould, with just a touch of influence from that other great Minnesota-bred pioneer, Bob Dylan. The infectious, good-timey groove combines with soulful lyrics to deliver a very enjoyable, winning record.
Israel, 31, is a Minneapolis native who has also spent time in the vibrant music scenes of Chicago and Austin, and he’s clearly gathered numerous influences from his travels- the Cultivators’ sound has been likened to that of Wilco, and it’s a fair comparison; the Cultivators recently played at Austin’s South By Southwest festival. Israel, the band’s frontman and primary songwriter, has performed with numerous groups, as well as solo, prior to joining up with the five-piece Cultivators in 1995.
From the Soul Asylum-like “Friend in This Town”; to the Replacements-oriented “Killing Time”; and “Feet in the Water”; the band pays tribute to the Minneapolis sound, though “Hey Kid”; is more reminiscent of mid-period, “Being There”-era Wilco, while “Dark Corner”; might be more country than even Jeff Tweedy could handle. The best song is the slow, introspective closer, “Wasn’t Lost on Me.”
The lyrics are also understatedly clever, almost conversational, throughout, such as from “Dark Corner”: “Spinning in circles your feet leave the ground/ but every possible deliverance ends up in the lost and found.”; Or from “Never Ending Circles”: “Whatever I try it comes out a flop/it’s much too depressing or a little too pop”; What is it with Minnesotans and “pop”?
Pop is among many genres in which one could theoretically classify Dan Israel and the Cultivators make, if not roots-rock, folk-rock, or alt-country. And while it would be a cliche to bemoan that the Cultivators have no major-label deal while the likes of Creed and Limp Bizkit do, Dan Israel and his band have much to be proud of with this record. “Love Ain’t a Cliche” is the rare album likely to appeal equally to fans of Paul Westerberg, Ryan Adams, and Johnny Cash.