Friday, 3 July 2009

Dose 22...Black Bile & Lugubriousness

1)St. Augustine by Band of Horses

As the last track on Everything All The Time (2006), "St. Augustine" could have really gone any way. Throughout the album, the band (presumably, of horses) demonstrated their prodigious versatility. From their morose tracks like "The Funeral", lush with stoic lyrics about abortion challenged by cascading guitar chords, to their more upbeat songs such as "Wicked Gil", these guys proved over and over that they didn't necessarily fit into any prescribed niche. True, Birdwell's voice sounds a lot like Jim James...and that "glimmering reverb" doesn't help either. But what Band of Horses has going for it has all together nothing to do with these MMJ-esque qualities. Rather it's the dichotomies that they themselves establish. Stephen M. Deusner describes it as the "delicate balance of elements- between gloom and promise, quiet and loud, epic and ordinary, familiar and new, direct and elliptical, artist and listener", which is the real draw of their music. Nowhere is this is more apparent than on "St. Augustine", a song which harmonizes the basso vocals of Mat Brooke with Birdwell's soothing whisper. As the two croon in combination, they tell of past indiscretion, redemption, and forgiveness. Whether this song is about St. Augustine, Florida (as many from the locale posit) or about the misguided Saint Augustine Indian Mission School (their website even has pictures of the staff...gruesome), it is really the melancholy tone of the song which is most interesting, as it, like most conclusions, defines the complete work.

Everything All The Time

2)Citrus by The Hold Steady

"Citrus" isn't a fitting song on Boys and Girls in America (2006) or even for The Hold Steady. They don't thrash about loudly with heavy rock 'n' roll chords. Nor does Craig Finn narrate, in vivid detail, the story of teenage love and drug binges, though these themes are integral to this despondent piece. In fact, the only real resemblance this piece has to the rest of their catalog is that it is self-reflective and thus particularly apropos for drinking by oneself , in addition to our other self-destructive vices. Apart from this attractive complement, the song is gentle, cathartic, and unsurprisingly meticulous, making it pleasing on sonic levels as well.

As is typical of their lyrics, The Hold Steady are primarily speaking to the interplay of sex and drugs (with themselves creating the rock'n'roll to complete the trinity), but, this time it comes from a grander perspective. Perhaps, a bit older, Finn is now speaking with the voice of someone who's lived through the good times, as well as the bad, and uniquely, he tells no cautionary tale. Instead he, like the experienced sage, urges you to go forth and try it all. He only impresses on you that down this path, both Judas and Jesus await.

Boys and Girls in America

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