The title of this, the ninth full length album from Soul Asylum, may bring to mind the old adage "every cloud has a silver lining" and the hopeful intent of the saying is exactly what the band was looking for. Even though the album was recorded during a dark emotional time for the band (founding member and bassist Karl Mueller was losing his battle with throat cancer) the music itself was a positive thing and completing it for Karl after his passing was the main focus for Soul Asylum.
The Silver Lining, which made its debut on July 11, is a mixed bag of emotions delivered in the quintessential rock sound the band is known for. Pirner's rich and full voice is clear and expressive whether he is singing a pleading balled of love in "Success is Not So Sweet" or the up-tempo but bitter "All is Well."
With "Success is Not So Sweet" the maturity of the band truly shines through in both the writing and execution of the song. The lyrics are deeply contemplative looking back over choices made. In the delivery, Pirner's voice has aged like a fine wine and is able to convey the emotions with a tone of authenticity. You believe he's coming from a place he's familiar with and singing about a life he's lived.
The same can be said for "All is Well." The bitter and spiteful refrain of "all is well in hell/wish you were here" is an easily identifiable emotion. Its delivery, on an upbeat and uptempo melody, helps to foster the sarcastic message. The tune gives such a warm feeling if you didn't listen closely you might believe all is really well.
"Slowly Rising" is a throwback of sorts to Soul Asylum's punk roots with its grinding and repetitive phrasing. After a short break, the track fades into the hidden bonus track of "Fearless Leader," which is actually an old demo track. The band found it to be particularly relevant to the times, and without the knowledge of its history I would have assumed it was written specifically for this current release. It's an intelligent protest song of types and there is sage advice in the quote "Heroes will never let you down/As long as they are dead." The contrast between the two songs embedded in the same track is drastic and demonstrates the wide range this band can cover.
"Lately" also takes on the topic of war. The song tells of a soldier whose only will is to get home to his young family and the wife who is going it alone. With an up-tempo and upbeat melody it's not what you think of as a traditional war song. It's full of hope and promise for a future once the couple is beyond what they are faced with. The song proves the band that is entering its third decade of recording can stay current both with the times and the ever-changing face of music.
By far the standout track and the most mainstream on The Silver Lining is "Stand Up and Be Strong." A positive message of looking past the lows in life and finding the strength to continue on – head up high – is backed with a strong and contagious melody. It pretty much embodies the band's struggle to continue on after losing Karl and can almost be interpreted as a promise that even without him, Soul Asylum and their music will go on.
Soul Asylum is Blogcritics' Featured Artist for July. Keep your browsers pointed here for an upcoming interview and a look back at the Soul Asylum discography. The band's website contains current news and information on the band as does their Myspace profile.