Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Levels of Sorrow

This post you're reading right now has been staring at me as a draft every time I log in for the past three months now. I just can't find the right words to finish my thoughts on a record that was the soundtrack to a pretty nasty winter here in Ohio. After repeated plays earlier in the year with an advance copy I acquired, I took a long break from this challenging dose of bleak folk and scraping anti-psychedelia until finally grabbing a vinyl copy from Mr. Pink Reason himself, Kevin DeBroux, who at this point calls the road home and considers Columbus as much as a spiritual resting place as his "actual" home in Wisconsin. In many ways this record is the the soundtrack to a young man's wanderlust, modern gypsy music to greet the apocalypse. I've seen Pink Reason four times in five months and never has the lineup been the same, nor the sound or feel or attitude. In fact all four times have been drastically different and have all gotten increasingly better as DeBroux rapidly becomes more comfortable with his own talent and his place in this world. This is only the beginning of a very long, most likely life-long, trip....
Anti-psychedelia...I like that. For a while, during my initial absorption into Cleaning the Mirror, I was calling this the saddest record I've ever heard, ever. More sorrowful than anything Ian Curtis - whom DeBroux uncannily resembles in voice - sang on, more strangely dramatic than Tim Buckley's weirdest sides, more dryly melancholic than even Nikki Sudden's starkest moments. There's really only one artist who has touched this level of sadness, and that's Nico. Yeah, I forgot about those Nico records, Marble Index and Desertshore. That's some desperate shit. But there's something about DeBroux's voice, and the key his songs are played in, and the strict black and whiteness of the way it is recorded that makes this so heart-wrenching. It makes my dog sad.
Cleaning the Mirror is a record that will swallow you whole, but never tries to. One listen to a song like "Thrush", with its post-industrial skeleton rhythm, or "Storming Heaven", the four-horsemen's drinking anthem, or the slightly (comparatively) upbeat "Dead End" - the album's cheeriest song is called "Dead End", and the chorus asks "where did we go wrong?", and you'll be hooked. Not becauase of emotional bells and whistles or outsider angst or anything like that, this isn't the Cure and it isn't Jandek either. This record is just one person's representation of truth; he's cleaning the mirror for us to see his perspective more clearly. Stay tuned for chapter two, because the first one is a masterpiece. Out now on Siltbreeze.

Friday, May 4, 2007

There Is Magic in His Beard

I was planning on shaving off my beard sometime this weekend, but, in tribute to Baron Davis and his Golden State Warriors, I will refrain from doing so until they lose a series....

It seems like the NBA has been pulling me back in, slowly but surely, over the past five or six years. Like just about every other American in the 80's and early 90's, I was a huge fan back in the days of Magic vs. Bird, Jordan and Pippen, the Bad Boys and Laimbeer, the dunk contests with Spud Webb and the Human Highlight Reel, all of that. The Golden Era of the NBA, if you will. A lot of things happened for me to lose interest but for the most part I just grew out of league too dependent on glitz and glamour and the individual.
But recently LeBron James and a handful of great young players have made the game exciting again, and for some reason this week I found myself actually caring about an NBA game that didn't feature the Cleveland Cavs and King James. Baron Davis and the Warriors play with such obvious emotion that you can't help from being pulled in and rooting for them. My girlfriend even cared. For more than a few seconds. That he pulls a hamstring and continues to play, scores another 20 points and then bear hug Ronnie Lott only adds to the drama.
Don't ask me what my motivation was behind this post. It's quite possible that it was Baron Davis' hipster beard. Or the fact that I still envy anyone, anywhere who can play basketball, because they are the greatest of athletes. I love it that it's fun to watch the NBA playoffs again. So excuse me during the month of May if I happen to continue this obsession. LeBron and Co. should be playing in the Finals if all goes as planned, and if we're lucky, it won't be against the Suns but a battle against the bearded one from the Bay.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Walking the Plank with Deerhunter

So I kind of pissed all over Deerhunter's Cryptograms LP a few posts back in a fit of rage, but I have to admit that the slam was a little unfair because I actually started off really liking that record and still enjoy at least three or four songs from it. It's not terrible, not at all, just not as good as every music site would lead you to believe, and I'll still stand by my belief that at least half of it is unlistenable. I guess I was just upset with writers confusing the potential to be great with true greatness. Today, though, I speak to you with a belly full of crow as I play the band's new aptly titled Fluorescent Grey EP finds them reaching their potential, its four songs pretty much forcing me into loving this band I dissed only a few weeks ago. Deerhunter is messing with my credibility.
The EP was apparently written during the mixing of Cryptograms, and it's as if they discovered exactly what that album's strengths were and used them as a jump-off for every song here. That is, they thought, "hey, we're a really good band when we write songs and stuff, let's do that more often." Deerhunter are air-tight in sound and style: pristine, ambitious production harnessing a fluid mix of various genres of music popularized in Britain between '84 and '92. There's plenty of JAMC and MBV as you've likely already been aware of, and plenty of the stuff Martin Hannett would've drooled over, but there's also radio-ready pop straight from the Cure songbook ("Dr. Glass") and with the title track even some Pavementesque post-REM jangle. Remember the much-hyped, more-disappointing Creeper Lagoon? Well, here's what that band should have been.
Some of the ideas are re-hashed from the album's tracks, but here, they're mostly better. All four of these songs would've fit nicely somewhere on Cryptograms. So I have to ask why they decided to leave such nonsense on the record? Obviously some like it. Maybe I will understand it all better somewhere down the path. But I do know that Fluorescent Grey is helping me understand, and I'll take some more chances with these lads. Luckily Kranky have issued the LP and EP together onto one double vinyl package, so we can all choose our own Deerventure.