Fires in Distant Buildings
In places where they have season's I imagine that the air is getting crisp, the lawns are getting leaf-befouled and the heartier suburban dad-stock is shopping for and subsequently utilizing the latest model of noisy leaf blower. Here in the Dirty South though we have to resort to artificial means to herald the oncoming of Demeter's revenge. For me its somber darkish guitar pop, where its not quite metal or indie or power pop but just kinda forlorn music that has a chilly edges billowing around its warm beating heart, and the latest from Gravenhurst fits this requirement nicely.
The record opens with the epic power mood rock piece "Down River", and that is precisely where it takes you, with a dark cloud of a bass riff as a canoe and an ever-increasingly overdriven guitar as a paddle and the singer's falsetto as its lone and lonely passenger. On the banks of this menacing waterway are the cicada hum of organs and muted trumpets just loud enough to let you know they are there. The single off the record "The Velvet Cell" ripples off like a lost 4AD radio transmission lost in the air many an autumn ago, and it joyously rendered into a clear Krautrock broth on its reprise a couple tracks later, reminding me of the lost art of the re-mix, when they were studio indulgences and not vanity projects for DJ's and rockstars manning the decks on a name-check fueld lark.
"Cities Beneath the Sea" is an elegant simple acoustic folk ballad augmented by a sad singing organ, "Animals" rolls off like a hazy lost Radiohead track, if that-band-that-won't-go-away wasn't so self-conscious about being who there are. Thom Yorke sounds more and more like he's doing a Thom Yorke impression than actually singing anymore, but we'll save that digression for another time. My favorite track on the album is "Song From Under The Arches" that slowly evolves from a tender carbon monoxide slow burner into a bona fide distorted bluesy death rocker toward the end. Its nice to see some tender hearts rock out for a change, since when they do, it has a lot more salience than when those upstart boys sweating off their mascara on their supermodel girlfriends do it. The final number "See My Friends" reminds me of one of the Velvet's psyche folk numbers mixed with adrift shoegazer vocals the likes of which have not been heard with such command since The Mighty Lemon Drops were hopping on our mushroom a decade or so ago.
Maybe autumn is a time for remembrance, and that's why this album is sitting right with me. Maybe I'm totally off, since I said a similar album by The Frames as what I like about summer. Maybe its because the album just rocks, like how the final strains of the final song are descending into glorious feedback and organ swells as I type this. Perhaps. Whatever the reason, this here Gravenhurst album is a great little record, and we all love a great little record.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com