Kiss Each Other Clean is the fourth studio album from South California based musician Sam Beam or as he is known to you and me, Iron And Wine. This album shows a large progression from 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog as it has been recorded on the major label 4AD. You can certainly hear the major label stamp on this record as it has been very well produced but for me in some places it can sound over-produced.
Beam has commented that this album sounds like “early-to-mid seventies FM, radio friendly music”. The latter is certainly true as this is his most radio friendly record to date. Some people will feel that his switch to the poppier end of the spectrum shows a loss of integrity but this all depends on the type of Sam Beam you like; either the low cost bedroom recorder or the new major label, money is no object persona.
I am informed that this album sounds substantially better when played live and in my opinion the best tracks are those which are more stripped down. You can still see the extremely talented song writing of Sam Beam shine throughout with his delicate vocals ensuring he has the listeners unrivalled attention for such classic lines as “I saw flowers on a hillside, and a millionaire pissing on the lawn”.
Despite my assertion that on the whole this album is a success, the track ‘Big Burned Hand’ seems too out of place for my liking. Taking on funky slap bass and a saxophone has proved too ambitious for this record but could act as a real treat live. I also feel that the swanee whistle chirps of ‘Rabbit Will Run’ are out of place and sound inappropriate when contrasted to the songs beautiful melody.
My favourite of the album however is the pensive, seven minute, closing epic ‘Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me’. Some parts of this really remind me of The Flaming Lips and is a great close for the album acting as a form of ellipses for new music to come.
We saw a great advance from the hushed acoustic tracks of pre-2007 Iron & Wine to the use of a full band in The Shepherd’s Dog. Kiss Each Other Clean is a further movement along the yellow brick road of improvement, but instead of leading to the Emerald City, one hopes it in fact leads to the less tangible idea of bigger and better things.