Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For Carnation

Promised Work
Out of all the bands that spawned from Slint, the For Carnation was the only band that surpassed the greatness of the original band. This disc is a reissue of the two essential EPs the band produced during its existence. Brian McMahan, "The Voice of Slint," is also the voice of the For Carnation. Over the course of its existence, the band had contributions from such indie-rock glitterati as David Pajo (fellow Slint-er), Doug McCombs & John Heron (Tortoise), Tim Roth(Evergreen)and Brian's own brother Michael (Dead Child).

The album opens with the classic "Grace Between the Pines." Brian's trademark whispered/spoken vocals are haunting as they are mysterious, but with an unfulfilled longing. The gentle strummed guitar and bassnever build to the Slint-ish crescendo, the template copied by so manylesser bands. My favorite line from the song is, "I will be here and you there, with crackheads, and assassins, and burn victims and millionaire sons." I could not ever figure out what place would have such an odd combination of people. My best guess is either a mental hospital or prison. I do not think it is important to pin down. The point of the song is the mood of heart break and melancholy.

All these songs are imprinted on my musical DNA. "How I Beat the Devil" is short and sweet. On "Get and Stay Get March," Brian's vocals float above a gentle rolling drum beat, strummed guitars and tweetingbirds. The lyrical content of the For Carnation is always obtuse,never obvious, but plainly simple sung/spoken words. Brian sings,"Measure each step, look straight ahead," over and over again. Unlike Silkworm, Brian does not lay it down in full view. The words conjureimages and moods. Making the listener feel is more important thanconveying a specific message. I saw this in person, at a show in Portland, Oregon: a girl openly wept as Brian sung "Moon Beams".

"On a Swing" is the first song from the Marshmallow EP. This song isbrief and placid. Just like "Grace beneath the Pines," the first song on the second EP is immediately followed by a more rocking number. "I Wear Gold" is with a full band, it is the closest thing that the For Carnation come to Slint's bastard child June of 44. The song builds and builds, the bass and drums provided a propulsive rhythm for which the fancy guitar lines to soar above. "Lymr, Marshmallow" is my favorite song on the two EPs, simply strummed guitar and bell like keyboard line and brilliant lyrics. "Winter Lair" is dark and haunting. "Salo" is also filled with dread. It is a story of a sharpshooter. It is not clear if the shooter is a hit man, working for the military or simply a crazy person on a rampage. One must listen intently to decipher what is going on. As always, it is left intentionally unresolved.

If you are like me and have the two EPs all ready, you may question the need to get this album. There is no bonus material. If you are like me those discs have been collecting dust. I for one am glad tohave gotten this disc. It reminded me that the For Carnation was one of the finest bands the 1990's produced. If you are not familiar with the band, this disc is a great start. These songs are too great to beforgotten about. (Touch & Go) (Dan Cohoon)