It's "The Chapel Song" and it annoys me. But at least it's short. I can't quite put my finger on what annoys me about it; but it's something to do with the yelping vocal and the leaden imagery and the weak-arse names of band, track and album. Something like it. So I'm giving myself a treat and settling down to some quality irritation. Trying to step out from my comfortable zone area.
First listen brings up unflattering thoughts of a Never Mind The Buzzcocks style identity parade of would-be Arcade Fires: I think it's that military snare. I've read a couple of reviews that explain the back-story of the songwriter's family being blighted by schizophrenia and suicide: and "Headlong Into The Abyss" is one of many tracks that tackle this headfirst. "I ain't goin' to wait around/For some pill to kick in" sounds like it's coming out from a mouth contorted by pain or emotion or despair. But the music seems so pallid and lumpen and I don't hear the beauty or grandeur that it seems to be reaching for. It might be a case of my aversion to the idea of redemption through rock'n'roll, the Springsteen Complex.
"I've got cathedrals in my head/And I think my Daddy's dead...Got a drunk for a mother/Got a saint for a brother" lays the whole family picture out on "Juarez". The geographical angle is interesting too: "East Los Angeles" also sets things in a Hispanic context. I don't know what the religious background might be - but they're based in Brooklyn, which suggests a desire to find a somewhere to save yourself. And no-one does redemption quite like the Catholics, eh?
"Book of James" reeks with the sound of redemption. Again I think it's that lonely slapping drum sound. It makes me think of The Boss and those thoughts never lead in a worthwhile direction.
I feel certain that I'm being churlish. This is the product (or the by-product) of some terrible pain in the lives of a whole family. And I hope putting it together helped him to heal and feel better about the whole thing. But the music (for the most part) does worse than nothing for me. It grinds against my sympathies.
The last four tracks win me back on a little onside. "Patton Street Hospital" has more slashing grunge in the mix, which makes more sense to me as an expression of emotional pain. As does his slow moaning of "Oh, James" (his dead brother's name). But I guess that's my own musical/suffering dialect. It has a touch of Pixies - but then there's a "hoo hoo" chorus and my involvement evaporates.
"Strange Days" is also more of the Black Francis persuasion, and addressed more towards the death of his mother - "She's gone/She's gone/She ain't ever comin' back again/So I got to turn a page". And "Barrel of Leaves" is more reflective than the rest of the tunes. The vocals are calmer, ballasted by resignation perhaps. "I'm all out of words here/They all left me last week." "The Instrumental" closes and there's some elegaic punch in there too, mostly brought by the brass: brass is beautiful and always touches my heart. The pain feels transmogrified and released.
Comparisons have been made with Eels and "Electro-Shock Blues". I didn't like much of that album either. Maybe I'm dead inside.
Rating: Rise Up out of Redemptive Rock Patterns!