The reasons why I first began to listen to Okkervil River are lost to history. The albums I first heard I do remember were the matched pair, “The Stage Names” and this one, “The Stand Ins”, they were released a year apart but are seen as being two halves of the same album, “The Stand Ins” being part 2. Singer and chief songwriter Will Sheff has a fragile kind of voice (a voice that has something of Edwyn Collins about it) and a warped sense of lyric writing, culminating in last track “Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed On The Roof Of The Chelsea”, Bruce Wayne Campbell being the real name of ridiculously hyped Bowie wannabe Jobriath who met his maker in a pyramid-capped apartment atop NYC’s famed Chelsea Hotel…see what I mean, warped.
“The Stand Ins” is a great album, but what raises it, in my estimation, to something really special is that it is home to the song “Blue Tulip” which is, and please excuse my language, fucking incredible. It’s a long meandering, melancholic torch song, the story of which appears, to me, to be of a fellow who is hopelessly in love with an actress (or maybe a dancer) and that love is completely unrequited as she has another romantic interest. But he keeps an eye on her, looking out for her in the forlorn hope that she’ll see him and…It’s utterly beautiful and when I was lucky enough to see them play it live in 2008 it reduced me to tears. To my mind that one song makes this album more than worth the entry fee.
Every song in here is an 8/10, and it’s not often you find a record like that. It covers uptempo Motown-ish pop to mournful dirges via rip-roaring Indie-pop, all delivered in Will Sheff’s louche style. Okkervil River (or is that just Will Sheff ?) are quite a special band and it really is a mystery to me that they’re not much better known.
Blue Tulip - https://youtu.be/TaNtRRxpReY?si=tqypxOAOi1py_y2V