It's becoming more and more obvious there's a sub-genre of weird-folk slowly rising. Makes sense in the wake of Primus, Ween, Presidents of the United States, Barenaked Ladies, and such groups in the rock realm. This group is at first a bit puzzling, highlighting the eternally cracking voice of…well, I can't tell who, as the microscopically tiny credits don't reveal it (three vocalists are credited, but I'm guessing it's Branden Messai, the songwriter). At the first cut, I thought "Ya gotta be kidding!", but, as the songs proceeded and the thematics broadened, backing band and vocals coming in with understated grace, the combination was strangely attractive, possessing a delicacy and heart unpredicted in the opening, beckoning in its frailty.
And if the music is a combination of the head-scratching, unsettling, and graceful, then its words are the equal. The story of a streetwise hardscrabble teen prostitute with a hopeful heart, the narrative may at first superficially seem coy in its treacly sentimental veneer, but the lyrics vanquish that with grit and eye-opening candor, making the listener squirm in the face of such nakedly brutal honesty colored with an accepting use of circumstances on the part of the protagonist, a born survivor. I don't think this has ever been done before in anywhere near this fashion (except, perhaps, for Doug Cameron's distasteful take years ago in Mona and the Children), a psycho-drama that's never been explored in music, but here accomplished with a direct cynicism that shreds rock's poetic norms to microns. The deeper in you get, in fact, the queasier heart and stomach become, yet the more compelled you are to keep listening.
This is existentialism on a Sartrevian level, and the quavery often oblique singing ever more mirrors the first-person / third-person fragmentation in telling the tale. The matrixing sonics are lower-class, southern mid-west, balladic, roots-folk subtle, and eerie. In fact, everything about this release is deceptive as hell, and I suspect it's precisely that quality which is gaining this mesmerizingly twisted ensemble the respect it's slowly garnering. It takes a very different kind of listener to appreciate what turns to be more than a small touch of genius here. I can't blame those who pass the disc up…but…those who don't will find themselves in the middle of a totally unexpected experience, one that will not leave the memory easily or quickly.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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