Do you ever look up from your day-to-day and realize you have not done something important? In my particular case, it is YELL at you about possibly the MOST important album EVER RELEASED!
ahem… got a bit excited there…
I am actually nervous to talk about this album simply because it’s hard for me to talk about it and NOT quote it incessantly. I realize that I have stated albums are my favourite in the past, so I will attempt to state the importance of this album in a way that dictates just how it has impacted me without using hyperbole. Any comparison I make, therefore, is warranted.
I still remember hearing “Our Retired Explorer” forever ago and thinking that it strikes that very delicate balance of being silly, yet poignant. I am going to start the review at that time, even though it’s a song in the literal middle of the album.
I was just in high school, so early 2000’s, and saw the music video on one of the many alternative music video shows that dotted the airwaves at that time. The song starts with a strike, the jumps into lyrics that tell a tale of a weary explorer. That’s right: the title of the song gives a hint of what the song is about. The entire song, on face value, is talking about a man who has dreams of going back to antarctica and spending time with penguins. Really, the song is a metaphor talking about longing after a time in the past using memories of exploration of lands undisturbed as a metaphor.
How do I know that it’s something deeper than the aesthetic? I don’t. All I can do is inject my personal ideas onto it to find some sort of deeper meaning.
The whole album is like that: a descent into the mind of someone running out the clock. The reason I have this sort of perception of the content is that the album has two tracks that break the album into sections. These tracks clearly share a narrative, and it is bleak and beautiful.
I can say, with great certainty, this album contains some of the greatest lyrics ever written. Songs like “One Great City” are silly and irreverent, meanwhile tracks like “Plea From a Can Named Virtue” are depressing and honest.
Musically, the album is a combination of punk and country. It might be a more common combination, but I have honestly not come across it prior, or since. I am NOT a country fan, but this album uses the ideas perfectly. There is little complicated about the composition, and minus a couple of excellent solo’s, few albums this plain hold my attention this well.
Yeah, I pissed off people because I had to write this. I am not sorry, and I will probably write about them in the future. This is such an important album lyrically, and the next album they released was the “next chapter”, if you will — getting even darker and more cynical.
Also, you need to be proud of me. I went this entire retrospective without quoting the lyrics for (Manifest) and (Hospital Vespers).