Okkervil River

The SIlver Gymnasium

BY Jazz MonroePublished Aug 30, 2013

Okkervil River occupy an intriguing conceptual space: part folk band, part rock band, part folk-statement on the rock band. Their best-loved album, Black Sheep Boy, took narrative inspiration from heroin-addled folk icon Tim Hardin, while 2011's I Am Very Far married a parody of rock'n'roll glory with its thrilling embodiment, shearing the band's folk roots. Seventh record The Silver Gymnasium is band leader Will Sheff's foray into autobiography, a milestone he apparently deems quite the occasion. The music is bombastic, almost self-consciously so; it's gaudily elegant, polished yet wild. Meanwhile, Sheff — ever the lexical Lothario — crafts first-person accounts of his unglamorous '80s experience, a many-branched chandelier of small-town bit-players and family traumas. Though his returning to childhood might strike the cynic as a retreat from the perceptive I Am Very Far (only the mesmerizing "Walking Without Frankie" extends the personal to the social), the showmanship and pomp of The Silver Gymnasium render youthful curiosity and naivety with dazzling honesty.

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