Published Jan 01, 2006You can't blame Jason Molina for wanting to try something different. After ten albums or more, you can understand his need to take the muse out to play some rock'n'roll. It's just that on his last few records as Songs: Ohia (now transformed into Magnolia Electric Company), he perfected the art of massaging the same three bloody chords into riveting seven-minute masterpieces. This is precisely what didn't happen on his long-awaited return to Toronto. Perhaps as a way of giving older songs new life, J-Mo expanded the three-piece band of his last tour to five, and though his otherworldly lap steel player returned, he now had to compete with unimaginative keyboards and was obliterated by the thoroughly average guitarist who couldn't seem to restrain himself from playing all over everything. How can it be that this line-up is so blissfully unaware of the marvellous space that his earlier bands intuitively possessed? When the guitarist leaned in to sing, "think I'll pack it in and buy a pickup" over the flagging "Almost Was Good Enough," it inspired as many cringes as yelps of recognition and did nothing to resuscitate the song. The painful irony of song titles persisted: "Don't Fade On Me," "Be Simple Again," etc. In its present configuration, the Magnolia Electric (Wank) Company buries Molina's soulful voice and muddies his understated poetry. What could be sadder than to completely miss, "why put a new address/on the same old loneliness"? Despite the mess he has made, Molina still has a way with a song; the rousing (and unrecorded) "At Least the Dark Don't Hide It" was also the opener on his last U.S. tour and its cocky country buoyancy still feels like the logical step forward from Magnolia Electric Company and Didn't It Rain. That endless depression wasn't likely to yield another work of art, and as much as we'd hate to see you regress, Molina, we gently suggest you consider your own advice: just be simple again.