A record that almost makes sadness sound desirable.
James McMahon 2010-09-06
First things first, this – the Virginia-based Carney brothers’ fifth in four years – is an excellent and unique record. You can chuck random reference points at the sound they’re creating – the unnerving squall of Slint, the introverted mumble of Midlake, a stripped-down take on Crazy Horse at their most fuzz-obsessed, a handful of Mudhoney records played at the slower, wrong-er speed – but really, this record sounds less like any of those bands, and more like someone sat in a puddle in a field crying in the rain. It’s a record that almost makes sadness sound desirable.
It’s also a record that lends itself to writing wordy bullshit about it; these are songs squalid and long, full of tetchy atmospherics and corn-fed longing sentiment. Take the acoustic sulk of Beach, a funeral march of sorts, segueing into the hard (country) rock of Lemon Lady, sounding much akin to the Melvins raised on the farm (as trio Van, Lain and Jennings Carney all were) by ma and pa. Then there’s the grammatically nonsensical Forms of The, which owes something to a lo-fi, cassette-recorded spin on The Byrds, or anyone who’s ever sparked up a joint on the west coast of America really, a reference point you’d imagine the boys’ scowling unshaved faces would spit out a blob of tobacco in disgust at. Or not. There you go, that’s the sort of rural imagery you can’t really disassociate the sounds from.
But what’s most admirable about Living is the disregard the band seemingly has for the conventions of modern rock. Thousands Citrus could be a nice, templated surf-rock song, until the bassist comes in and drops a load of lo-frequency sludge all over it. Or opener Young, a neat little melody approaching ‘a hit’ by Pontiak’s standards, but which bolts on a minute of atonal noise called Original Vestal at the end, as if they’re ashamed of theirselves for stumbling upon melody. Pedantic and elitist, yes, but there’s something that will be forever thrilling about young men who don’t want to plough fields that have been so thoroughly forged before.
And there we go with those wretched farm analogies again.
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