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Music Review: Joseph Arthur – Could We Survive

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I don't think I've ever heard of any such promotion or any type of artistic creativity like indie singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur's where his full length album Temporary People (previously titled All You Need Is Nothing) would be preceded by count-em four EPs. One or two seems to be the norm, but four might be excessive.

If anyone could make it work, it would be this Ohioan to both write enough material for all of the EPs and keep those songs fresh and stimulating enough for a possible second go-around on the upcoming LP (release date is September 16, 2008; previously August 5).

Could We Survive is the first EP and is one surprisingly down-to-earth, low-key affair. My only previous exposure to Arthur was his debut album Big City Secrets, which is a contrast to Survive in many ways.

While subdued might be a more accurate word to describe this latest effort, I will use the words calm and cool. The opening track "Rages Of Babylon" (download mp3 here) might be mistaken for being restrained, but Arthur tries to proclaim his anti-war message without the use of an angry tone: "Fighting in a rich man's war / Blood can't fill oceans of sand / I no longer possess my hand / Or my mind / Or my heart / Or my will." It might not resonate with previous generations who looked toward Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but it does paint Arthur is a much different light to this current one.

I almost wanted to say that Arthur was on the verge of reaching Howie Day or John Mayer territory with his slow numbers, but the title track with its bare and raw imagery somehow didn't fit with that hypothesis.

Could We Survive is a pleasant experience, and a perfectly fine stand-alone release. It would be interesting to hear what if any tracks from this EP make it on the LP. I think "Rages Of Babylon" has the best shot, but having any of these tracks juxtaposed onto an LP with more upbeat Joseph Arthur flair is intriguing.

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