The vocal harmonies are phenomenal, and the storytelling should keep your ears perked, but it skews a bit Jefferson Airplane.
When the guitar solo on “Down Will Come Baby” starts shading psychedelic, the way the banjo comes in is clearly meant to signal, structurally, a return to form. As much as it’s an instrument, it’s also a signifier; this fugue is coming to a close, and we’re here to let you know that you’re still on familiar ground. I noticed this mostly because that solo was, for a certain part of me at least, the most familiar thing I heard in all the records I listened to over this quarter. Not that I’m a real aficionado of psychedelic rock, of course. Only that the kinds of music I have explored the most in the past are the kinds that get noisy in ways that country tends not to. And all of which is to say that this is a microcosm of Scheherazade as an album; it is willing to go places that most others won’t, but it’s always there with a helping hand to bring you back in — for good or ill.
The glue that holds Scheherazade together is the vocal harmonies of the two lead singers. And they are very good at singing together, in a way that goes beyond simply requesting your appreciation. The trifecta of songs that ends with “Down Will Come Baby” makes up the heart of the record, in part because each showcases those harmonies to different effect; “The Asp and the Albatross” uses them to develop an insistent, poppy energy, and “Bolshevik and Bollweevil” see the harmonies accentuating lines to explore emphasis in storytelling. “Down Will Come Baby,” of course, employs harmony to dissonant ends, culminating in that solo but exemplary also in the alienated nursery rhyme that gives the song its title.
When Scherezade shades too Jefferson Airplane, however, as in “Velveteen Matador,” it undercuts some of its own momentum. Similarly “Number One With A Bullet” seems like a solid idea for a song where the execution just misses the mark. Those excellent vocal harmonies aren’t quite capable of upholding just anything, and hearing them fail to do what they apparently set out makes the whole less appealing than it could be.