Distant electronic drums would seemingly not summon the impassioned sunsets howled forth here, sincerely pitched in equal doses of both hope and tragedy; surprising, in our times extinguished of earnestness. But what has been failed to understand about us the generation hovering between X and Y, is that no influence could ever quite be perfect enough—such is also true with this spectacular record. I.E. is that an Art of Noise reference I hear ¾ of the way through “Memphis Alex”? Okay, yeah, we already know all that jazz about this project started off as a collection of John Cale covers (read The News), and yet it has morphed into a creature who might look back at its creator dumbfounded and with a sense of awe.
I write this as I listen to this record for the first time, but I keep treading and treading back so that I’ve listened to the first few perplexing and amazing tracks I’m not sure how many times. I will not belittle you with cross-indexed, band-name similes, except to say this record recalls some of my listening experiences with The Knife; in other words: within each song curiosity is sparked as how it will unfold and where it will travel and go.
“Life’s a Beach” is a triumphant battle-cry, a chart-worthy pop song rising out of the waters of the previous songs on the record to transition back to via melancholy hidden melody that just barely begins at the end of “Life’s a Beach” to transition to the folky Carter Tanton waters of “Dog Days / Afternoons,” possibly more than a title-only reference to the cine verite-ish Pacino vehicle, the sort of film where a bank robber’s sudden power sheds forth a corrupted ray of hope, a light in which all our flaws and foolish ambitions might become truly terrible and too squalid to look at, but we are led right out that darkness with the upbeat hook of “Clear or Brown.” And the tone of the guitar in the solo sucks the blood right out of the previous synth sound and explodes with it across the song’s sky, painting the sun and the moon a mystical shattering diamond.
And now the record is ending. I have made it through. It won’t be my last carpet ride, either. Utterly original and unclassifiable, I cringe at what the various musical journalists will write to confuse and confiscate innocent listeners’ journeys in unknown pastures beside turbulent waters teeming with ideas and lacking a clear, discernible influence; in other words: this record is a godsend of originality in our hellish contemporary musical wilderness of name checks and influence graphs.
But let us not to depart on a note of anger or discontent, because this record loves flowers, Caribbean sunsets, big 80’s pop hooks, the earnestness of Grunge, and the 2013 breeze of burning the old wheel green and mossy flaring flames again.