Fans that came to see Rx Bandits on Wednesday, April 8th at the Sinclair in Cambridge were treated to an excellent performance from beginning to end as we saw a strong showing from every act.
Cayetana was the first opener, and they brought an easygoing stage presence with them. The frontwoman commented that the first show that she had ever attended was to see “The Pharmaceutical Bandits” (Rx Bandits’ former moniker). The three-piece, all-female outfit from Philadelphia played straightforward hard rock with lots of energy, the perfect first opener and excellent beginning to the show.
The next band was A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and the crowd reception to the indie rock group was so positive that one got the impression that many concertgoers were there to see them instead of the headliner. This made for a very strong set from the Brooklyn band. A lot of their set consisted of their most recent release from Topshelf Records, “You’re Always On My Mind.” The crowd was screaming the words along with the band for their last few tracks, which only set the scene for a killer set from Rx Bandits.
The indie-prog reggae-rockers (along every genre in between) opened with “Ruby Cumulous”, the first full-length track off their most recent album “Gemini, Her Majesty”. They played a few songs from this album, getting the 500-strong crowd moving and dancing all the way. There were some moshers in the front, but the mostly young, low-30s crowd danced harmoniously, enjoying the music.
The highlights of the night from Rx Bandits included excellent renditions of “Apparition” (reggae chops combined with a hooky chorus), “Wide Open” (hard-hitting), and “…And The Battle Begun” (fast-paced and complicated). The real treat of the set was when frontman Matt Embree slowed it down and played a cover of Bill Withers’ famous track, “Ain’t No Sunshine” in his own style.
Overall, the show was worth the price of admission and all three bands come recommended.
Somewhere in between trips to SXSW and appearances at the Comedy Central roast of Justin Bieber, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, the stars of Warner Brothers’ new comedy Get Hard sat down with a group of college reporters to discuss the film.
Ferrell and Hart were both predictably charming and affable, cracking jokes between themselves, lauding praise on first-time director Etan Cohen, and responding to questions covering a breadth of topics.
In a sense, they compose themselves in much the same way throughout the film — this is not Ferrell or Hart at their most brash, both turning in performances that are about what you’d expect from them at this stage in their careers. Unfortunately, this laissez-faire approach ends up hurting the movie more than it helps it. Hart in particular is likable as the emotional center of the film, but neither star is able to elevate the movie beyond its rather odious premise: Successful hedge-fund manager James King (Ferrell) is convicted of a series of embezzlement and fraud charges and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security lockup. Because his thoughts immediately turn to an inability to handle 10 years of prison-rape, he offers his car washer Darnell (Hart) $30,000 in exchange for a month of prison readiness training, based on the assumption that Darnell had spent time in prison. (When Darnell tells his wife about the new arrangement, she presses him for more explanation on where that assumption comes from: “I was being black,” he responds). And that, sadly, is where most of the film’s humor come from.
This is the kind of movie where one type of joke is hammered into your skull so many times you almost give up questioning the setup out of pure exhaustion. If you wanted to know how King, who we’re repeatedly told is brilliant (he holds a degree from Harvard Business School and makes partner at his investment company) is dumb enough to make repeated assumptions and continually mis-read social cues, you’re going to have a tough time digging through ethnic and rape jokes to find an answer. A trip to a gay hookup spot designed to teach King how to properly fellate a fellow inmate (because, the film reasons, this will prevent him from being raped) similarly relies on gay-panic humor and a full-frontal semi-erect penis as a sight gag.
It’s not all that bad, however. Ferrell’s hilariously white-collar prison-yard trash talk (“I hope you brought your rewards card, because the 8th d*** is free!”, “I’m about to put a hashtag on your a** and see how many hits it gets”) and backhanded snipes at Yale offer occasional glimpses of what could be an original take on the setup — but too often the film tosses these ideas aside in favor of easy jokes about people of color, rape, and homosexuality.
You get a sense that Cohen had some legitimate social issues on his mind when making the film; the opening credit sequence shows the disparity in basic living conditions between LA’s wealthy and poor, the ostensible “villain” of the film is a disgustingly wealthy billionaire who buys an entire island as a tax shelter, and King misses the irony in claiming he “never asked for handouts” despite being born to a wealthy family. But nobody involved seems interested in making that kind of movie (Hart and Ferrell, for their part, entertained questions about the prison system and their preparation for the roles, but their responses indicate that research was not a big part of their process). Cohen is ultimately more interested in winding up his two stars and letting them play with the material. They’re undoubtedly a great comic pair — you can’t help but smiling every time 6’3” Ferrell physically lifts the 5’4” Hart — but in the end, they’re underserved by the script (also by Cohen, along with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts) which settles for a tone that wouldn’t be out of place in any Adam Sandler movie from the 1990s.
And in the end, this is a Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie from the 2010s — at this point, we should know what to expect.
As Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth would say! I found out that a box set of the “Decline and Fall of Western Civilization”! Its amazing, what started out as a film sponsored by religious groups to warn the youth of the “dangers” of punk music has become a huge cult classic. If you were ever interested in seeing a really young Pat Smear, this is that opportunity. You can also see D.J. Bonebreaks “bedrooom” within a closet. The movie was then followed up with Decline and Fall of Western Civilization the Metal Years. For those who saw the mini series from HBO’s Sonic Highways and were disappointed by their coverage of the Los Angeles music scene. Decline, the Metal Years, more than made up for it. The focus was on the real sleazy L.A. music scene. If you’re a fan of metal, this was must see tv. I had no idea there was a third movie to this set. I’ll have to wait to see how much this goes for when it hits the store June 30th! This is certainly a good excuse to hunt these films down either from your local library or your favorite site you watch movies from. Check it out! It will be the most fun you are legally allowed to have!
Songs from the Squid Pod airs every Sunday from 3-5pm.
Contact: @squidpodmusic on Twitter or email@example.com.
So what was your excuse for not being at The Sinclair Wednesday night, March 25th? The freezing rain just before the 7pm opening of the doors? You still can’t tell if your car is under that pile of snow on the right-hand side of the street or under the one on the left? Whatever your excuse, you’ll soon realize it wasn’t enough after the number of people you come across in the next day or two who rave about the show.
Headlining the show was Big Data, who are coming off the release of their first full-length, 2.0, on March 23rd. Big Data is the brainchild of Manhattan native Alan Wilkis, who now resides in Brooklyn along with the rest of the band, and features the accompanying, siren-sultry vocals of Lizzy Ryan.
Wilkis describes the band name and the focus of the lyrical themes as, “A paranoid electronic music project from the internet, formed out of a general distrust for technology and The Cloud (despite a growing dependence on them).” I had a chance to speak with Wilkis after the show and he elaborated on the concept a little more:
“All the songs are about or inspired by stuff happening in technology…paranoia, privacy, freedom, Edward Snowden, social media. I work with a different vocalist on every song on the recordings and with each person I work with we try to pick some topic and that’s always the jumping off point, but then we try to frame it in the way that you could read it as a pop song, albeit a weird pop song but a pop song, but if you look for it, the double entendres and technological references are in there. You don’t have to read it that way but you can.” Asked about the track, “Business Of Emotion (feat. White Sea),” Wilkis went on to explain, “That was about the Facebook mood experiments that went on in 2013 and popped up in the media in the summer of 2014. Basically what happened was, Facebook conducted an experiment on 700,000 people without their knowing it and the way it worked was that for half of them, for a week, more positive things were showing up in their news feeds and the other half they skewed it a bit more negatively. [Facebook] then recorded what people were then more likely to post in the following week and … people that saw more negative stuff were basically more depressed. So what is basically a big, giant mood manipulation experiment, without anybody’s consent, at least openly, but technically just by signing up for Facebook, they can do whatever they want with you because it’s all buried in the terms of service. Nobody was ‘hurt’ in the process but it’s just sort of horrible knowing that it’s possible…and opens a lot of scary doors that we probably should’ve seen coming.”
Wilkis says that if you don’t know the story behind that song, “It could [sound like] just a generic, stupid, make-you-feel-good song, but it’s very much not about that.” Appropriately enough, Big Data included a great cover of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” which, if they ever release, I will be the first in line to purchase.
2.0, released by Warner Bros., features their standout hit from 2014, “Dangerous (feat. Joywave),” which Wilkis co-wrote with Joywave frontman Daniel Armbruster. Dangerous hit number one on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in August 2014 and was featured in an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, accompanied by Joywave. As Wilkis mentioned above, just about all of the tracks feature guest artists, including Twin Shadow and Jamie Lidell. The music can be described as electro-rock with a rhythm section given as much, if not more, emphasis as the synth/computer loops. Two other previously released EPs from Big Data are 2013’s 1.0 on Alan Wilkis’ own Wilcassettes label and 2014’s 1.6, on Warner Bros., which features remixes of “Dangerous”.
The second act featured Minneapolis’ ON AND ON. Their moody-pop synth and guitar rock sound kept you fixated while offering a bit of a change between the first and second acts. Their 2013 debut, Give In, on Roll Call Records, continues to get the attention it deserves, and the crowd’s reaction is all the proof you need. Visit their website to learn more, and check out their single “Ghosts”:
Brooklyn’s CHAPPO kicked off the night and helped thaw the crowd with a jumpy and interactive pop, psych-rock sound. Lead singer Alex explained to me his take on the genre-labeling of the band after the show.
“I feel like we get a lot of, ‘It’s hard to pin you guys down, you have a distinct sound, your own thing.’ I’m sure that’s with every band and every genre in some form or another but we sort of lean towards psychedelic rock. I don’t know, it’s got a little ’60s surf-rock meets a little ’70s psych and we throw in a little straight-up rock and a little electronic pop.” I was pleased to hear that, if only for vindicating the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard his unique voice for the first time. Immediately I thought of David Diamond, lead singer of the ’70s rock band The Kings, probably best remembered for their huge hit, “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” from 1980. If you’re still unfamiliar then you know your extracurricular assignment for the day. Unlike The Kings, who were a one-hit wonder, CHAPPO is a band you are bound to continue hearing about.
Their second album, Future Former Self, is to be released on May 9th on Votive Music. Their debut, Moonwater, was released in 2012 on Majordomo Records. Alex also mentioned the handful of EPs floating around on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify.
Here’s a catchy number from their Moonwater LP, “Come Home” that has passed 300,000 hits on YouTube.
One of the reasons why I subscribed to Guitar World this year was because I wanted to see who the up and coming guitarists are. The latest issue of Guitar World features two new guitarists and a familiar one. The man above is Tosin Abasi who is a monster on guitar! Granted I am a little hesitant when it comes to more than just six strings on a guitar. To me, its just another gimmick. The first time I saw a seven string it was on Steve Vai’s GEM Guitars through Ibanez. Did it make a real difference in his playing? Not really. However with eight strings, now you open yourself to more open chord voicings. I really wish I had the time to invest in playing these instruments. I barely have time for a six string never mind eight. What about the chapman stick? Forget it! Anyway, Tosin’s band is called Animals as Leaders, very prog rock. Don’t let this deter you if you have an aversion to such music, it has a broad definition. It can be entertaining without being wanky. That being said, take some time to expand your mind and enjoy!
Tomorrow, Monday, March 23, Tufts’ own “tall, grunged-out trio” Cave will be broadcasting their new EP, “Tiny God,” on WMFO’s Funkin’ Gonuts.
Two thirds of the group, which delivered two hugely well-received performances at Applejam shows this academic year, will be sitting down with WMFO’s Jane Acker to answer the questions that have been on everyone’s mind since the band burst out last fall. Funkin’ Gonuts will be the only place to hear “Tiny God” ahead of its official release, so be sure to tune in at 11 AM sharp so you don’t miss a beat. As always, you’ll find the broadcast at 91.5 on your FM dial in the Medford/Somerville area, or worldwide at wmfo.org.
Well actually it isn’t, the man pictured above is none other than Andy Fraser. Andy was one of the founding members of the band Free. I loved Free, this is the first band I remember Paul Rogers playing in. The band was phenomenal yet very short lived. The death of Paul Kossoff would ultimately be the literal death knell of the band. I have yet to play “All Right Now”. I guess largely because you can hear this on any commercial radio station. That also happens to be the song Andy co-wrote. He never gained any notariety after his days with Free were done but his legacy with Free will live on literally forever. They were good, solid, rock n roll. Man, I really miss those days alot. Anyway, below is his last interview was from this years after party at the Grammys.
WMFO is pleased to announce that it is giving away free tickets to TWO great shows later this month!
He’ll be playing at on March 20th at The Sinclair, at 52 Church Street in Harvard Square. If you’re interested, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to claim those tickets – the first emailer get them both!
The day right after, March 21st, Phoenix band Andrew Jackson Jihad will be coming to the Royale at 279 Tremont St. in Boston. They’re touring in support of last year’s album “Christmas Island,” which likewise got some real positive attention upon its release.
As with the Perfume Genius show, tickets to see Andrew Jackson Jihad will be given away to the first person who emails email@example.com and asks for them.
Stay tuned for more giveaways from WMFO, Tufts’ 100% freeform student and community radio station!
I’m going to introduce the Collectors series starting now. I will be reviewing albums that I feel should be in everyone’s album collection. Yes, its strictly arbitrary but I think you’ll find most of what appears here is worth the time to check it out. Disclaimer: The artists profiled in the collector series will not be new artists. Its not that I don’t want to review newer artist but I feel someone other than myself is probably better off reviewing the newer stuff. So without further ado, lets move forward.
The Rolling Stones need no introduction. Their career spans over 6 decades! Some Girls, released in 1978 caps what I consider their most successful decade of music. In fact only Tattoo You would be the last listenable album released by the Stones and that was in 1981. What makes this a great album? That’s easy, 8 out of the 10 tracks could have been radio ‘hits’. Track 5 and 8 are the weak songs here. What also makes this a strong album is that not every song sounds the same. Everything from rockers like “When the whip comes down”, “Shattered” and “Respectable, to mid tempo songs “Miss you”, “Beast of Burden” to the slower songs “Just my imagination” and “Far Away Eyes”. “Far away eyes” is a tip of the hat to country music. The country connection being that Keith Richard’s father was a country musician. This is a must have album for your collection.
1. “Miss You” 4:48
2. “When the Whip Comes Down” 4:20
3. “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong) 4:38
4. “Some Girls” 4:36
5. “Lies” 3:11
6. “Far Away Eyes” 4:24
7. “Respectable” 3:06
8. “Before They Make Me Run” 3:25
9. “Beast of Burden” 4:25
by Daniel Welch
“To do away with itself, that spirit cannot do; seize itself, so long as it has itself outside itself, it cannot do that either. Nor can the human being sink down into the vegetative, for he is characterized as spirit. Flee from anxiety he cannot, for he loves it; really love it he cannot, for he flees from it. Innocence has now reached its peak.” – Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety
A Distant Fist Unclenching is a difficult, rewarding album.
Relative to previous releases, Krill has stripped down their song structure — songs ‘Phantom’, ‘Torturer’, ‘Tiger’ and ‘Brain Problem’ all involve repeating lines or verses more or less word-for-word — but with less words Krill manages to summon much more dense and intricate images. I didn’t really ‘get’ a few of the songs on the first listen, and every once in a while a line will still throw me a bit, forcing me to question whether I’m missing something big (it doesn’t help that you’re thrown into it without a lyric sheet or anything). Not only that, but the images and ideas of these individual songs have tricky ways of echoing throughout the album, which makes understanding the thing itself all at once a difficult task.
Not only that, but in many ways a part of understanding A Distant Fist Unclenching is as a culmination of what Krill has done so far as a band. A lot of musicians indulge themselves or their fanbase in winking references to self-mythology, a strange by-product of pop music that bizarrely ends up becoming a part of the commerce in its own right. Krill has been guilty of this before (sardonically or no, they have recorded a song called “Theme from Krill”), but on this record history plays a much more meaningful role: Krill moves forward with some of the core “Krill” concepts (of failure, division of self, “Purity”, human and animal life…) and their ability to do so is already impressive in itself. But more than that, how this step is taken is actually a testament to the central ideas of the album… The most fitting way to explain this, for now at least, seems to be a (not really winking) reference:
On ‘Infinite Power’, the climax of the previous Krill full-length Lucky Leaves (2013), bassist/lyricist Jonah Furman sings:
“And now the fact that things have happened,
is the only thing that I can know
and inside that oscillating noise
is my favorite place to go…
It’s the only place I can go.”
At the end of new song ‘Tiger’, Furman’s pleading cries of “Me…. Me…. Me!” are swallowed by a thickly distorted wall of sound, generated by guitarist Aaron Ratoff locomotively chugging at the same minor note over and over again. In a moment like this the listener finally arrives in that oscillating place Furman could previously only describe. Beneath the unyielding layer of noise, the distant sounds of a bassline by Furman, Ian Becker on drums, and shrill, creakily ascending feedback (and a plunking that might be the most uncharacteristically “Krill” piano part ever?) just barely offer up a sense of progression. But tempting as it is to anxiously poke through the incomprehensible repetition at these suggestions of structure and meaning, at the end of the “bad day” or “good day” Furman frames the verses with, all we can know is that things have happened.
What follows is a sort of crazy, English major-y analysis of A Distant Fist Unclenching. It helps if you’ve listened to Krill before, but the hope is that it isn’t necessary. For reading this, that is. Beyond that, I’m not coming down on either side.
“Novelism” is a standard that always requires some unpacking, but it’s one that definitely has a place in conversations about Krill. The best way to do so might be found on the back of their previous release, self-proclaimed “failed concept EP” Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears (2014). The reverse side of the record sleeve has all of the lyrics printed in a single, prosaic paragraph — repetition of lines and choruses cut out in order to adapt a musical narrative (“failed” or no) to a print format. The result is something like prose poetry, but there’s also something very different about it. . . which would be kind of useless to parse out in a review for a different record entirely. But it’s an interesting attempt to bridge the gap between the two forms, and the possibility for the album to cohere as a literal ‘text’ reveals a bit about Krill’s overall mindset when it comes to lyrics. For now, it’s enough to know that this is clearly something that the three think about a lot – Furman himself explained to Death and Taxes his feelings about the critical response to Lucky Leaves:
“I guess people don’t respect something you can experience in three minutes but I feel like we’ve just published a short novel…”
Since the idea of the ‘concept album’ was introduced, songwriters have puzzled over the question of how to get a Pop record to function as such while also carrying a narrative (And selling). Some take an operatic approach, having the lead singer literally tell you the whole story as catchy guitar hooks work their way around it. Others have taken a more abstract approach, building a narrative sonically as otherwise disconnected lyrics touch on common themes. And in the intervening decades, as physical, digital, and multi-media alternatives have challenged the increasingly defunct LP format — stuck up against the wall right next to the novel that convinced it to get “conceptual” in the first place — new artists have found new, inventive ways to approach the question.
If it seems like I’m about to say that Krill has finally found the answer, I’m not (and it definitely wasn’t going to be that they’ve gone from “something you can experience in three minutes” to something you can experience in five and a half). But the album is actually better for it, because A Distant Fist Unclenching isn’t about stepping away from your problems and towards a solution, but finding a unique, functional place within these liminal (“oscillating”) spaces of self-questioning. And in this sense, with A Distant Fist Krill seems to have redeemed the “failure” of Steve Hears Pile – the trio has come that much closer to expressing itself in its own dialectic. As such, the ‘sinew’ of A Distant Fist meshes together in a way that isn’t really like any other band’s album. And as such, it’s tricky to write about. You’ll see.
Okay, that’s enough about the old shit for now.
The titular claim of album closer, ‘It Ends’ is that, “It ends. . . the same way it begins.” ‘It Ends’ itself concludes the record with a slow, anxious fade-out, mirroring the fade-in that begins not the opening track, ‘Phantom’, but the second track, ‘Foot’. If you’re a listener who grew up in the Pink Floyd tradition of bookended fades easing you into and eventually out of the ‘experience’, then maybe this strikes you as a marginally odd choice. But then maybe it digs at you a bit (and maybe you take a bong rip) and the result is a sort of koan: “When does ‘It’ begin. . . not how it ends. . ?” And maybe it’s just then you remember that the first song is called ‘Phantom’, and so maybe it makes sense that it’s placed outside the ‘body’. . . of the album. . . ? You fall asleep with your headphones on, but not before resolving to soberly reassess in the morning.
In ‘novelistic’ terms, ‘Phantom’ serves as a prologue to A Distant Fist Unclenching. This allows the lyrics to introduce some central images and arguments of the album as a whole while still being slightly distanced from the narrative – namely:
“What’s the proper orientation of my self to my non-self?*
What’s the proper orientation of my non-self to me?
What’s the proper orientation of the world to my non-self?
What’s the proper orientation of the world to me?
Does it always have to be. . .
Although you hate clubbing, you find yourself in a club. And even though dancefloor hookups don’t carry any value for you, there’s still a strange feeling that comes to you when you end the night alone. You either tell yourself, “There’s no such thing as ghosts,” or try to acknowledge this specter of rejection. . . You come to terms with the presence and return to the club the next night, vowing to find a stranger to go home with. But when the moment finally comes, another phantom passes through you and it all seems sort of unsexy and pointless.
You think you’re a good person, but then you remember a bad thing you did. You think you’re a bad person, but then you remember a time when someone told you you were good.
Wherever you end the night, you feel as dissatisfied as the night before.
So what’s the proper orientation?
The questions ‘Phantom’ ends on form a transition between it and the body of A Distant Fist, made particularly resonant by the fact that the previous verses have been sung entirely in the second person, transposing onto the listener the existential angst that Furman then places upon himself in the songs that follow. It clarifies that, though the rest of the lyrics are about Furman, and can only really be about Furman, there, but for the grace of God, go “You”. On A Distant Fist Unclenching, the division of the self is comparable to the “othering / of a puny little bug” alluded to in ‘Fly’ – the painful distance Furman has to negotiate between his non-self and his present sense of ‘self’ is as vast as that of “You” from “Me.”
Not only do these questions give us a philosophical grounding from which to approach the rest of the album, but moments in the song introduce several lyrical and aural motifs that reiterate throughout: Furman’s sneering address, “puny pilgrim, keep on running” may be to his paranoiac, restless self in ‘Foot’, but also to the aforementioned “puny” ‘Fly’ – as Furman describes the “unblinking, awful scent” arising from the glass of sour milk in his kitchen, the vocal reverb momentarily wobbles away from his voice into something like the ethereal doppelganger of the title… which returns to haunt his bitter interrogation of “what is juuuuuuust… me” in ‘Brain Problem’ – at 2:12 we hear the collapsing bass motif that will send the interlude preceding and guitar fills following Furman’s new lease on life in ‘Mom’ crashing into themselves. The album is recursive in the sense that with each reiteration the first iteration gains clarification – the album builds itself with each listen.
With these phantasmic presences of the songs to come, we are given a sense that the entire album could be dispersed throughout Furman’s house – thoughts, images, and leitmotifs swirl in the hallway (as they do on the center label of the record itself) as he pinches his nose and prays for the strength to enter the kitchen. To open the door to the microwave would mean having to confront the “You” whose shameful Brain Problem created the unblinking, awful scent polluting his home, and reconcile with this “non-self”. And then from the other side of the threshold he would have to face the ‘Torturer’ who stands at that door, realize it’s himself under “black mask / in spite collar” and steel himself for the exchange:
‘What did You come here for?’
And You said,
‘Whatever You need me for.’
And I said,
‘I don’t know what You’re for.’”
Questions of internal orientation on A Distant Fist Unclenching are always simultaneously questions of how we interact with the world: the debate over punishment in ‘Torturer’ involves the same “othering” that the moral debate in ‘Fly’ is centered on – that is, whether the virtues of mercy or judgment are even relevant when it comes to something as seemingly trivial as the life of a flipped-over bug. Structurally, ‘Fly’ is signaled as a prelude in its own right by the low-fi buzzing layered over the vocals and instruments, which crosses over into the first few seconds of ‘Torturer’ before cutting out. So ‘Fly’ provides the anecdote which provokes the abstract deliberation of ‘Torturer’, and then the circle is closed with the same (brilliant) drum fill ending both songs. Though they involve different characters in different orientations (“Furman” self to “fly” non-self vs. “Furman” self to “Furman” non-self), this percussive denouement links them as two ways of understanding the same moral conundrum. Lyrically, the fate of the “fly / who couldn’t” is left up to the listener, with Furman asking, “you… / knowing what you do of me / what do you… / think I chose?” But Becker’s fill certainly sounds like Furman’s ‘Foot’ falling onto the ‘Fly’… the fuzzy note Furman’s been strumming is squashed and all that’s left is droning feedback, mimicking the slow, twitching death of a swatted fly, the music positing a hypothetical outcome in which Furman decides to act with judgment instead of mercy. So the crime is committed and Furman is faced with his Torturer. . . then what? Is Furman now the fly, sentenced to equal suffering at the hand of a huge, unblinking “non-self”? But wait, isn’t that a collar on the Torturer’s neck? And isn’t that Furman under the mask? Who sent the orders in the first place. . . ? The “I’s” and “You’s” get confused – and in the end Becker’s simulated footfall returns and something is crushed.
I could continue evaluating each song in the Adam West school of hermeneutics,** but the real point here is to give an idea of how narrative is formed on the album. The whole system of meaning-making is constructed with a respect for everything Krill’s chosen medium is composed of — vocal inflection, sound effects, time signatures, grammar, verse, diction, repetition, motif, leitmotif, etc., etc. There’s clear evidence that a lot of thought — or maybe just sheer intuition — has gone into the implementation of these techniques, working in conjunction to go beyond just making songs that sound “cool” but actually guide us toward something. And that thing, as with most great ‘novels’, is the writer itself as an individual we can understand intimately through art. On Lucky Leaves’ ‘Purity of Heart’, Furman describes how fucking hard it is “to will to be someone who isn’t not you,” but the complex inter-connectedness of A Distant Fist Unclenching gives us a distinct impression of what it might feel like to spend 45 minutes inside a brain belonging to no one else but Krill. Instead of having it or its failure to cohere simply described to us, musical and lyrical expression moves toward transcending the limitations language imposes on our ability to connect. And so maybe the brain starts to overcome some of its problems after all?
A Distant Fist Unclenching beckons the listener to follow all of these internal connections through — to trace the intersecting veins that run against its tendons. The furthest I can take my above argument about ‘Fly’ is to link its sonic death to that of the fly Furman remembers having watched “wriggle and twitch and then die” in ‘It Ends’. He says that over the course of its struggle he “never once bat a grieving eye”, and perhaps we can see when the “huge, unblinking eye”, the reflective surface that is all we see of the Phantom, stopped shutting.
But then there’s the fact that the fly in ‘It Ends’ was swatted by Furman’s ‘Mom’, and then all the meaning of that song has to color every step along the way and further, further towards an “answer” to what this album is about. And that’s about where the vein slips too deep under the skin for me. I can guess that line probably has to do with ‘Mom’s’ chorus of “Why would I stop you? / How could I stop you?”, but beyond that I get too exhausted. Not that continuing isn’t a worthwhile effort — to be able to grasp something and choose not to is just laziness — but if you’re squeezing your fist just to make the veins bulge, then it’s kind of pointless. You can try to understand another person’s perspective but you can never actually be them — there are always going to be lines like, “I thought you had meant Boston when you said you were moving back East” that only really mean anything to Furman. If you’re a member of Impose’s “Cult of Krill” then maybe you’ll read a crazy amount of interviews with Furman and get an idea of what he’s referring to, but what’s the point? The important shit is there whether you can see it or not…none of what Krill’s saying is so esoteric that you won’t be able to find it inside yourself someday. The endeavor isn’t to connect all the dots, but to at least reciprocate the gesture that Krill offers: to come outside of yourself and explore how this non-self might not be so unfamiliar. As long as you’re willing to do that you understand enough.
A Distant Fist Unclenching wouldn’t be so honest of an attempt to communicate Krill’s ‘Self’ if it didn’t include all of Krill. So we see a lot of previous Krill imagery return: tortured by his ‘Brain Problem’, Furman remembers a simultaneous wish to die and “live forever” — the latter of which concludes Steve Hears Pile’s ‘Turd’ as a possibility to finally find happiness. . . The walk he wills himself to take in Lucky Leaves’ ‘Purity of Heart’ is what leads him to the ‘Fly’, his footsteps “spooking” it into flipping onto its back. . .
The peach pit his soul transforms into despite the lingering feeling that ‘I Am The Cherry’ from Alam No Hris is the opening image of ‘It Ends’: The peach “dangled and plopped down” from the tree that both Twig and Grass imagine themselves to be in ‘Purity of Heart’ — maybe even the same tree Furman wants to climb as a ‘Squirrel’, or be, or be the view that squirrel might see from it — and we understand that the desire at the heart of Krill’s music has always been the same, clenched or unclenched. The peach falls and even though Furman explains, “I’ve been allergic since I was sixteen,” — the same age at which he both chose to develop his ‘Brain Problem’ and realized he’d always had it — he still affirms, “but I wanted to set the pit free.” And then all of the images and ideas A Distant Fist has been clenched around slip through the fingers.
All of A Distant Fist Unclenching’s anxiety is held in conflicts like this one –- choices presented over and over again that illustrate the deep, lacerating costs of self-discovery, the threat of becoming lost in ambiguity and possibility, and the question of whether “discovery” is really even the goal one should set for one’s “self”. In Furman’s own words:
“The fist unclenching is what happens after a tortured moment. It’s how to move from that anxiety without being too naïve or too cynical — without being happy-go-lucky or saying, ‘Fuck it, nothing matters.’”
All of the self-reflection and maturity that results in an album like this cohering the way it does – somehow having the faith to, despite the tortured moment, begin to draw a line between “what is a brain problem –- and what is juuuuuuust… me.” — finally rewards the “Me” with the rare ability to go beyond just describing the circumstances surrounding the Problem, and paint “You” a picture of what it might look like when the fist finally begins to unclench.
*A lot of blogs are transcribing this (because again, Krill isn’t giving us the lyrics) as “my non-self”. I’ve listened to this verse several time and I still hear “known”, but I’ll go with the blogs this time just in case. But thinking about the dynamic of a “self” vs. a “known self” is just as intriguing, and I would say just as relevant to this album.
** Robin: But wait! It happened at sea! See? “C” for Catwoman!
Batman: Yet… an exploding shark was pulling my leg!
Gordon: The Joker!
O’Hara: It all adds up to a sinister riddle. Riddle-er. Riddler?