Sunday, June 30, 2013

Forgetters - S/T

I never understood Blake Schwarzenbach’s appeal until I hit one of the first of many rock bottoms that I would live through. After walking for two miles to get some free boots that were donated to the homeless in Austin, in shoes that were literally falling off my feet, I ended up getting there late enough to be in line when they ran out. Luckily I saw an acquaintance and they took me to there house and gave me a beer and I was really out on the edge when I heard Bivouac on the stereo in the next room. Very few things in the world have invoked the power to sooth my soul than his raspy voice and driving, modern, guitar rock.

It’s been a couple decades since that rainy winter day and in that time Jawbreaker became Jets To Brazil, The Thorns Of Life and his newest outing Forgetters. The common thread through all these bands has been his deeply poetic voice that shifts from the personal to the deeply personal to the most confounding the third personal. It’s hard not to picture the songwriter in the songs he sings. Even when it’s stated clearly and repeatedly that the songs are stories about people he knows the subject matter is still a clear indicator of the songwriters character. A choice has been made, the topics stick to the narrator most when they match the story he has been cultivating over the years.

I feel like I’ve gotten to know the bitter cranks that live in those songs. There is also the other guy. The one that is tired of being strong, the guy who needs a hug, told it is going to be all right. Sometimes it’s the guy who is about to shoot his t.v. set. I know all these characters. I know the selfish, conspiracy driven madman that makes his appearance on Ribbonhead (which strangely has a riff that is very reminscent of Radiohead). I love them because I’ve gotten to know what makes them tic. Tic like timebombs. Which gets us to Forgetters. An album that doesn’t eschew the post hardcore or folky piano rock of the past it just layers it with more samples and strips the sound bare for a post punk feel with songs about cutting and the specter of Thanatos on O Deadly Death. One track even reminds me of Wire a little.

Ex-Against Me drummer Kevin Mahon provides a solid backbeat that allows Blake’s songwriting skills to come to the fore. Songs about the collective malaise we’ve felt about the tragedies that collect in our subconscious. Songs about people who worship celebrity, dying to leave and living to die. Songs about Americans. This is a remarkable album filled with pathos. I don’t think it could serve to turn my pain outward in the same way Bivouac did but we’re older and wiser and maybe we shouldn’t be let off the hook anyway.

--Plagaue Rat

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