Maybe it’s because I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever that I have always been drawn to the use of words in songs rather than the music itself. As a kid for example, we used to transcribe the lyrics to our favourites. Then when we bought the albums with the lyrics in it was always better than there were only pictures inside.
I mean, take the title of the first song on “Nostalgia Is Killing Us”. “Coitus Mayfield”, who calls a song that unless they’re some kind of linguistic genius? And what a fabulous album title, too. Always looking backwards, what’s that ever done for anyone? What has ever been gained from going over and over things at 2am in the morning (I am speaking here as someone who does that, regularly).
If all that isn’t good enough to get a review – it is, it really is – then there’s this opening verse.
“I don’t know what I’m running from
I guess myself
I must be terrifying
That’s what women sell me
When I try to pitch them all the things I’d do
They laugh and run away
I guess it must be you”.
Such things are anthemic to those who do mull shit over at 2am when they’d rather be asleep, so brothers – and I am addressing the men here only (sorry ladies) whoever this man is, he should be our new leader.
This man, actually is Chris Cranick. He fronts a band called Overdrive Orchestra out of Grand Rapids Michigan and this is his debut full length solo collection. To be equally truthful I was not aware of him until I got an email from his record company last weekend which said: “Chris is a solo singer songwriter with a lot of soul and a bit of darkness. The album ‘Nostalgia is Killing Us’ is creepy and surprising, sometimes a bit funny”. And that really, is the thing in a nutshell.
“Our List” doesn’t have the rapid fire delivery of the opener, but does have a one man band feel of superb drums and harmonica, to go with the brilliant dark poetry of the lyrics (that’s a given throughout), but “Ain’t That Happy?” – it’s ironic – adds a reggae-ish shuffle and whistling and is an example of the fabulous, anything goes feel here.
“Get” though is a more claustrophobic, confessional thing – and for my money it is when it is navigating through the darkness in this way that this record is at its best. “Sea Of Dreams” on the other hand has an air of resignation. “All our lives,” goes the first line “we wait around in the shallow end, hesitant to take that jump ” and honestly – whether you admit it or not – is there anyone reading this that doesn’t know what he means? It’s interesting, unsettling even, instrumentation helps make this one shine like gold.
“Classroom” takes things into a swampy blues area. Not too dissimilar, perhaps, from the work of Steve Hill, while “Standard Of Living” is a piece of gorgeous folk – so fragile it could smash into pieces if you look into it too hard – and the use of Glockenspiel here (I think….I did say I wasn’t a musician!) is something different from what many would do.
It all ends with “Yin” a Beatles tinged thing with a simple paean for love. “In this life, we’re all trying to figure it out, I thought perhaps we could figure it out together…..” he murmurs and although he doesn’t sound heartbroken, he sounds beaten. That’s what happens. That’s why this is so magnificent.
This is a record for those who know there’s no happy ending, who understand that the hero doesn’t get the girl and they know – somehow – they didn’t deserve her anyway and would have only messed it all up.
The soundtrack to your next sleepless night is right here.