10,000 MANIACS: THE EARTH PRESSED FLAT (1999)
1) The Earth Pressed Flat; 2) Ellen; 3) Once A City; 4) Glow; 5) On & On (Mersey Song); 6) Somebody's Heaven; 7) Cabaret; 8) Beyond The Blue; 9) Smallest Step; 10) In The Quiet Morning; 11) Time Turns; 12) Hidden In My Heart; 13) Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
This review will be kept short. Most of the band's second studio album with Mary Ramsey consists of outtakes from sessions held for their first. Therefore, everything said about Love Among The Ruins applies to this album, along with the self-understood warning that these songs were not seen fit for inclusion by the Maniacs on an album which, all by itself, was already a typically tepid affair. With that in mind, fans of Mary Ramsey are welcome to enjoy the songs.
One strangely annoying aspect of this record, worth a brief mention, is that, starting from track six, the tunes initiate a continuous run with little in-between-song links eliminating pauses; these range from absent-minded mandolin plucking to ambient synthesizer landscapes to even a little bit of goofy rapping on Mary's part. Very annoying in all, because little bits of silence are sometimes necessary on 10,000 Maniacs records to be able to tell when one song is over and the next one has begun, plus it adds a whiff of ambitious conceptuality that is not at all justified by the material. You can't really turn a third-rate album of second-rate outtakes into a work of art.
That said, there is some nice echoey picking on the title track, and 'Once A City' and 'On & On' both have their stereotypical bits of charm. And the cover of 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes', in the usual Maniacs fashion, works as a likeable, listenable tribute to an original whose true heights these guys would not even know where to begin to scale.
It is almost fortunate that The Earth Pressed Flat became the Maniacs' last studio album so far: almost, because a good reason behind this could be the band's realization that the world really did not give a damn about their getting it on — but instead, it turned out to be Robert Buck's death from liver failure one year later. Not that the story was over. Various band members still continued to tour and record occasional live albums as 10,000 Maniacs (in the mid 2000-s, they even released a couple of them done by a line-up that included singer Oskar Saville from the Chicago band Rubygrass — and no, don't worry, Oskar Saville is really a girl), and as of 2011, with Mary Ramsey officially back in the band, rumor has it that they are planning on a new record — one that, if it does come out, will probably redefine the meaning of the word «tepid» one more time in its already cluttered history. I'll let you know.