Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Narrow, But Nicely Appointed

As my last entry indicated, I've been listening to the Handsome Furs's Plague Park, which features Wolf Parade's distinctive singer Dan Boeckner and his partner Alexei Perry. I'm on my fourth time around. Because the album has been playing in the background while I use the internet, I can't say for certain whether I would have tired of it already had I been devoting all of my attention to absorbing the music. But it does make a nice soundtrack to everyday life, if you can call what I'm doing here, parked at the ranger station of a state park with a computer on my lap, "everyday life."

One reason why that might be the case is that the record doesn't shift tempo much. I went to look up the Pitchfork review just now -- it appeared last week -- and found my own perception reflected and reinforced by its author:
The album is only nine tracks long, but for all its brevity, it seems to last a while-- and even has time to repeat itself. The album's middle section sticks to the same tempo, the guitars all use the same strident strum and texture, so by the time Boeckner sings, "If there’s a god/ He holds you closely/ Inside these walls" during "Dead + Rural", Plague Park itself is tightening around you, its airless, thin synths and florescent-lighting hum draining your energy.
I like the fact that these sentences don't state whether this impression of claustrophobia is a strength or a weakness. So I looked for the byline and discovered that it was written by Jessica Suarez, who before becoming a seriously overworked contributor to the independent music press was a student in two of my classes and someone I always looked for at Tucson shows. I can't claim to have contributed much to her rapid rise as a critic, aside from encouraging her by my own enthusiasm for music journalism, but it's still nice to recall the connection between us.

As far as Plague Park goes, I think I may end up liking the record a little more than she did, but see the validity of her critique. Wolf Parade's Apologies for the Queen Mary is an album with astonishing staying power -- it still sounds fresh to me after hundreds of listens -- and one that anyone would be hard pressed to match. I can say, though, that the Handsome Furs are impressing me more on this go-round than on the first three, which is saying something. If, as Suarez suggests, the limited range of the songs on Plague Park is deliberate, appreciating its charms may require assimilating its fine details. Interestingly, parts of several songs are reminding me of Neko Case's last few records, even though there's nothing overtly "alt country" about them. Perhaps the Handsome Furs and Case share some Cowboy Junkies DNA.
Tags: everyday, music

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