From the opening track of Son Volt's latest release, one wonders again where Jay Farrar went wrong. Though nothing on the record sounds particularly out of place (even the brassy horns on "The Picture"), everything on it leaves a bad taste in the mouth -- like Listerine after a bad kiss. It's less guitar-heavy than Son Volt's previous release, presumably in an attempt to gain credibility with fans of the Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire.
Even though this band, which sounds like a bunch of indie session players, is not the band that Farrar used on 1994's Trace, Farrar somehow survives. That's because his voice sounds as near-perfect as it ever has, allowing Trace's buoyancy to linger in the background. That record was and still is a milestone record, but here's the reality of the Son Volt phenomenon: Many hope that Farrar has another great one in him, and they keep hanging around to find out. But The Search isn't the one; it's just another well-produced, well-sung, but ultimately soulless Jay Farrar record.