Was up in Montreal recently where a good friend works at a film festival up there. The night i arrived, she was previewing entries. There was a movie which was unanimously accepted by her and her friends because it was shot in Montreal, had a pleasant soundtrack, and a good cinematographer, but the more I think about this film, the more I hate it. It was one of those films that was trying as hard as it could to avoid saying anything, using phrases like “it’s impossible to explain” and “there really aren’t words for this.” I will almost never respect art that uses a crutch like that, unless it is immediately followed up by “…but i’ll try.” Making art that talks about the inability to communicate through art is fucking stupid. Even the big ideas can come across through art. Try.
The new Ted Leo album feels resolute, and this should not be. The album’s best song is a second-pacer called “Even Heroes Have To Die” whose chorus, prophetically and astutely consists of Leo intoning “Even heroes have to die/No one lives forever/No one’s wise to try.” The album’s last track is called “Last Days” and the eerie “Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop” ends with the dire proclimation that “it feels like all time is ending.” These are the signs of an artist who feels worn out. But, and this I mean, Leo has never sounded this vital. Leo’s politics have always been at their most convining when he avoids the specific (the mediocre “Heart Problems” was a mediocre riff on american health care, “Bomb Repeat Bomb” is about as obvious and blunt a comment on the atrocities of war as its title would suggest, and the new album’s “Bottled In Cork” begins with the stinker “There was a resolution pending on the United Nations floor”), and instead writes more poetic, more moving songs about power, about love, and about hope. And, with the exception of one or two tracks here, Leo has done just that. He crafted an extremely forceful, catchy, and intelligent album, cover to cover. He sprints through this album in a way that is delightful and heartening to hear. He actually does sprint ahead of every other instrument on “Gimme The Wire.” Ever hear someone beat an electric guitar?
And that song, “Last Days?” In it Leo sings like the true “So if we’re living in the Last Days/Then maybe, baby, there are a few things we ought to do”
“one’s own mortality”
it was hot as drunk driver’s sweat in cloudless michigan. Jess and I were driving somewhere; Ohio, I think. she put on this Jonathan Richman song she said would break my heart. It was too sunny for that to happen, I thought, so I said, sure, go for it. of course, as with a lot of things, she was absolutely right. Never veering into melodrama or saccharine, this is a song about saying goodbye in a way when your body revolts against every syllable of the word. This song is a starched sheet that got away from the line being gusted across the state of Oklahoma. Jonathan’s simple enunciations, his drummer Tony’s pressing, and the dry guitar are the three storytellers. Jess said it, but I’ll repeat: This Song Will Break Your Heart.
Label of the fall goes to In The Red, releasing exciting new albums from The Fresh and Only’s, Tyvek, and The Parting Gifts (Greg from the Reigning Sound’s new band).
…and…apparently, His Name Is Alive released a new album. Without telling anyone. I’ll let you know about that one soon!