Despite five exceptional albums, the seductive sound borne by Sons of Bill has yet to attract more than scant attention with listeners. That’s too bad, because each of their efforts thus far has provided an allure that deserves to gain more response. Perhaps they were over thinking things, or even trying too hard. After all, when you create melodies so instantly accessible, it could turn out like a courtship where one partner comes on too strong and the other shies away. In this case, it was an audience that was ignoring the advances, simply because the connection seemed too easy to gain.
If further proof is needed, suffice it to say that the band’s last album, Love and Logic, should have been the big breakthrough they deserved. With a marquee producer in Ken Comer, and a set of songs of generally soaring proportions, it had all the makings of a timeless classic. Yet as one reviewer noted at the time, music that’s too entreating is often easy to take for granted. Besides, being radio-ready doesn’t mean much these days since radio isn’t nearly as embracing as it once was.
Not surprising then, the band takes a bit of a change in their tack with their latest effort Oh God Ma’am, producing the album on their own and opting for a more celestial sound. A sound that, unlike the ill-fated suitor, suggests that it’s better to be elusive than to reveal all on any initial encounter. The opening track of the album, “Sweeter, Sadder, Farther Away,” embodies a more sobering sound, with piano accompaniment that’s ultimately uplifting, even despite the subdued circumstances. Elsewhere, as on the spectral “Green To Blue,” the Sons revert to Dark Side of the Moon mode. It’s a route they’ve taken before, but here, it’s even more haunting, given the darker shadings that shadow it overall.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its share of uptempo tunes. “Old and Gray,” “Firebird ’85” and “Believer/Pretender” provide an uptick in energy, with a sweep in the sound that brings to mind certain ‘80s icons—Echo and the Bunnymen, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet and the like, groups that aspired to reach a certain high plateau with sonics and synthesizers but emitted emotion as well. This time, it doesn’t quite reach anthemic proportions, but it’s still hypnotic all the same.
Oh God Ma’am isn’t nearly as abrupt as its title would have us believe, but it does seem intent on keeping listeners at arm’s length, encouraging them to delve deeper as opposed to offering an immediate connection on first hearing. That’s not to say it’s not an engrossing record. It is. However like most things worthy of retention, the appreciation gets better as time goes by.