With all the hype behind the break up of At The Drive-In and the birth of The Mars Volta I expected to be floored by this album or at least left with my jaw dropped. The effect this album had on me was far more gradual and time consuming. I tried with all my might not to come to a conclusion about the album before listening to it more than once. I must say that repetition of this album is definitely in favor of The Mars Volta. For each time the album inched its way up the scale in my head.
From what I have read it seems as if the songs are developed in such a way that they tell the story of a friend’s suicide or illustrate one … something of the sort. In attempt to parallel the concept and accurately describe the music I will take you through the visual progression that takes place in my mind.
I am in a park (though not a designated park). In fact, I am not in a park at all … more a hilly green area with large, branched trees sparsely distributed about. Slightly beyond this setting is a forest; a dark forest with mass amounts of overcrowding trees, which seem as if they are trying to push one another out. Back to where I am sitting; without any company of my own on the ground with my back against a rather old tree. I am asleep yet stirring. Without being aware of when or how, I wake up. The unnoticeable transition I make from sleep to wakefulness is much like the undetected transition made from song 1 to song 2 on the album as well as other successions.
As I survey my surroundings I find that the most random group of people I have ever encountered encapsulates me. My fellow “just before the forest-dwellers” are physical representations of the various characteristics or attributes of the music in the CD. There is the eccentric, slightly schizophrenic kid who is entertaining in small doses but whom too much of just gives you a headache. Then further off into the distance is the unassuming, brooding, sullen, profound and intellectual looking one. Her presence, although subtle, is much needed. The person closest to me is the innovator. It (we’ll make this person androgynous for the time being) weans in and out of this imaginary circle around the area. Each time it comes near me it is convinced that it has come up with a revolutionary idea or sound when usually it is just coming up with different variations of one new concept. So it is rather repetitive in its thoughts and even patterns of walking around. Somewhere in the mix is the heartbroken boy who has had to suffer all kinds of dreadful circumstances. That he has made it this far, this close to the forest is amazing and somewhat inspiring. Yet, one look at him and one can see and feel only some of the pain he has had to endure to merely survive. Not lastly, but last of the more apparent figures, is the happy go lucky girl who wants nothing more than to save the world. To pull the downtrodden boy from his misery, to hand the schizophrenic some medication and therapy, to hand the “thinker” a puppy so she can attempt to enjoy life at the moment and not dissect it, and to hand the inventor a camcorder so that it may see for itself the productions of its mind. Jesus, the savior, in the form of a woman … (kidding).
Much of the day passes as much of the CD passes. The guitar resembles the psychotic (schizophrenic) kid weaving in and out of the background then bursting into the foreground. During the trek around the area the kid magnifies his presence at times while randomly pulling back at others. Much of his time is spent in the foreground though, creating an excess of dirtied guitars. Many times simultaneously, the depressed girl brings voice to her thoughts and frustrations through the “ooohs” that complement the music an unimaginable amount especially in the second track. The whispering she does may just make up for the incredibly screechy guitars effects offered by the schizo. In the third track there are attempts to give more voice to her. As a result she finds herself in opposition to the faster paced music, which is dominating the track. She tries to hold her ground and results in an eccentric pace wavering from soft to loud to soft to loud over and over again. It is not till late in the song that she perseveres with her softer background music that allows more focus on the vocals; only to revert back to the fight between soft and loud.
Contributions of the bruised (mentally and physically) pervade every song. The desperate feeling that is apparent in each track is inescapable much like his past. The wandering psychotic has inspired the innovator. In fact this inventor is convinced that the overbearing guitar sounds brought about by the schizo are ingenious. He (the innovator) is inspired to add effects, which are unnecessary and distracting to me. In addition he tweaks the environment adding an immensely cut up quality, constantly wavering in tone and volume. He refuses to offer any stability in the environment. All the while the carefree girl attempts to raise my level of awareness so I can attempt to see the brilliance of the combinations instead of wondering what the fuck is going on. After much probing and prodding I am able to see bits of genius and creativity but for many of the positive points are hidden behind the screeching guitars, thanks to the frantic schizophrenic and his newly acquired pal, the innovator.
While most of the album proceeds in such a way that there is a constant struggle between all the characters or attributes of music in the end there is a breakthrough. Instead of trying to find their way and their strengths, everyone finds his/her voice in track 9, “Televators”. This is all in good time because dawn is breaking. After experimenting with length of songs or activities, ranging from one and a half minutes to twelve minutes, a compromise is reached. “Televators” lasts a mere six minutes, six wonderful minutes. Everyone gets his or her say in this song. Beginning with an abrupt silence, contrasting from the previous track, nature sounds are heard resembling the awakening of the “just before the forest” area. Like soft and slow gusts of wind the sullen girl’s vocals soothingly brush against your skin and through your ears. I feel like I am ingesting the thought process she has. Slowly the fragile gusts of wind acquire more strength as the courageous boy sings his piece through piercing vocals that so obviously express unsurpassed pain. Not only pain but desire as well. The shifts in rhythms proposed by the psychotic are nice with the arrangement at hand. Instead of confusing me, they subdue me while provoking me. Provoking me to think and consider a variety of things. “Televators” is without a doubt my favorite song on the album. It is as if all the characters in my mind have collaborated in such a way that each contributes the perfect amount of themselves to the collection of music. Unlike most of the songs this one has not one thing in excess until the very end where the sounds resemble light sabers. This track is the lowest common denominator of all the instruments. Even with no excessive manipulations it easily instigates the most intense feelings in me, especially when reading the lyrics while listening to the song.
All in all the evening spent in the area just before the forest was eventful, sometimes painful, and eye opening yet it is something I do not wish to experience again for sometime. I need to recover from the night’s festivities. Similarly while I find this album intriguing, I am not interested enough to listen to it again for at least another week or two perhaps longer. While I will listen to “Televators” I do not think I will be revisiting the other songs. This is just my experience and my pathological interpretation of De-loused in the Comatorium; however, there are many critics who hail this as album of the year, the Holy Grail of new music.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.