Thursday, July 13, 2006

evil don't look like anything

It's almost startling how little happens to you when you don't leave the house much.

There's no denying it. The home-to-work-to-home pinwheel will keep you squared away with the internal sleep-bank and surely reduce other complications that could come up from people 'out there,' but, for the most part, a lot of things are being missed.

This is just the schedule and the fading illness talking. The ship will get righted soon enough, but lately I've been rolling home from work at about 8 p.m., which is just enough time to have a very hastily planned and vegetable-deficient dinner, relax, read a bit and unfortunately crash out. However, I have been afforded the opportunity to catch up on my "Arrested Development" DVDs, which is fairly delicious treat I can't believe I didn't start sooner.

Anyway. The following song is apropos of nothing, it just makes me happy.

"Okkervil River Song," by Okkervil River

It takes a special kind of band to willfully rock the song that's of the same name as its own. The only other one I can think of right now is "Talk Talk" by Talk Talk (who also pulled off the rare branding trifecta by releasing the song an album of the same name). Who else has done it? Would it have seemed okay if Led Zeppelin started singing about a metallic dirigible? What if the Rolling Stones covered "Like a Rolling Stone" in concert? You'd pretty much have to throw things at them, right?

And doesn't feel like grandstanding here. Maybe it's because this came from Okkervil's "first" record "Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See," which is just filled with so much wide-eyed enthusiasm, joy and ambition it's tough to begrudge the young band a thing.

This is probably my favorite album by these Austinites, and I think the biggest factor is the instrumentation. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere in my late 20s I drifted from my usual catharsis-rock and became utterly enamored with rootsy, acoustic 'Americana,' I think it's been least offensively called. (This has also been referred to in more vicious circles as a varietal of 'dad rock,' which, c'mon, just isn't nice.) Whatever your thoughts about acoustic music, one of the most beautiful aspects of it is there's no half-stepping. If you know what you're doing, you immediately sound that way. I've shared my love for effects pedals--partly because they can make even me sound like a guitar hero--but with a banjo or big hollow-bodied box there's nothing to hide behind. You hit the notes or you don't.

Whatever my love for that album or, particularly, this song, may say, it's tough to miss its charm. A bouncy riverboat zydeco kind of rhythm comes in at about the one minute mark, led by that most unsung of acoustic instruments, the mandolin, followed, shockingly, by a chugging accordian. Stay with me now. Pretend you never saw a bumpersticker that read "Play an accordian, go to jail."

Still here? Good. But it's not just the toe-tapping that makes you glad you stuck around. There's such longing in the lyrics, this dog-eared short story with a melancholy sense of lost love that culminates in the shouted "I searched and stared but only the river stared back." Then there's a moment of silence, birds chirping, the river (presumably) running.

What else could they name the song? This is what Okkervil River sounds like.


At 1:55 PM, Blogger briana said...

I'm going to break my own rules and go score this album post farmer's marketry this weekend. Your review is too tasty to resist.

Hope you are feeling better - I passed out at 9pm last night with a book on my chest and the reading lamp still on. This cubical farming crop rotation needs a major revamp.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger chris said...

Right on! That's so cool to hear, I'm glad I could inspire that. You have to let me know what you think of the record.

Feeling much better, thank you. Maybe it was some allergy freakout or something, which I don't know if that's better or worse. And I definitely agree...the cubicle farm is in dire need of a good, cleansing brushfire.


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