Joseph Arthur: The Graduation Ceremony

Joseph Arthur: The Graduation Ceremony
Joseph Arthur has always been the type of songwriter that thrived on disaster. His post-9/11 offering of Our Shadows Will Remain garnered some of the best reviews of his career. It was not until his post-Katrina offering Nuclear Daydream that he got similar critical acclaim. With no real disaster afoot, I questioned how good The Graduation Ceremony could possibly be.
The Graduation Ceremony is actually Arthur’s first formal solo offering since Nuclear Daydream. His last two albums were credited to Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts, his back-up band on call. The stripped down aesthetics on The Graduation Ceremony allow Arthur’s lyrics to take a more center stage.
It is debatable whether the lyrics are worthy of center stage however. Some songs seem worthy of it like “Someone to Love.” Arthur does his best David Gray impression on the track as he sings “Mentally I was no more than a slave/Will you help me surrender/You said I have to become a dancer/And started shooting at my feet.” This kind of vivid imagery shows Arthur’s often confusing sense of love and relationships.
But for the most part, The Graduation Ceremony seems to be a connection of nice songs about relationships. There is nothing particularly wrong with the closing song “Love Never Asks You To Lie.” The closing chorus of “Heard you cry/Love never asks you to lie/Take off your evil disguise/I could see clear through your eyes” is among the most catchy sections of the album but it left me asking “is a stripped down approach necessary to illuminate these lyrics? The trite rhyme scheme tells me that this might actually be the type of refrain that is buried inside a more complex arrangement.
Maybe I am just jaded but Arthur’s words–although earnest–almost never ring as outstanding on The Graduation Ceremony. After listening to the album I was not filled with a feeling of hate nor of a feeling of love, just a feeling of “I just listened to an album I will probably never listen to again.”
Rating: 6.1/10
MP3: Joseph Arthur “Someone to Love”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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