Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thalia Zedek Band

Liars and Prayers
The liars of the Bush administration claim to be prayers too. No matter how you interpret the Bible there is no way that document can justify the evil that the Bush administration has perpetrated upon the world. This is not the first time that Thalia Zedek has mixed her pop and politics; see Come's Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Unlike others who attempt to do the same, when she does it it has an utter devastating effect.

Not all her music is political; most of it is deeply personal. Her music is raw and visceral. It is harsh, ragged and beautiful. This music is for cold and desperate winter nights when one has given up all hope.

The disc opens with “Next Exit” -- a lonesome violin weeps, as a piano plays melancholic lines. The bass and drums join in as the sorrow is replaced with anger. “There is no up or down, there only one direction coming around. You can’t switch sides.” Thalia voice is rough, tough, yet pleasing. In her solo career Thalia Zedek has chosen to explore the starker end of her music. This song pulls no punches. While combining the orchestration of her solo projects, there is a rough hewn edge to this album like her band Come.

Lower Allston” is a song about a failed construction project. The Big Dig is a construction project to bury the other green monster, the elevated highway that goes through Boston. It has been going on for as long as I can remember; my Mom was born in Dorchester. It had been going on for nearly 20 years by the time I arrived in Boston to go to college in the mid 1990s. When the highway went through it tore neighborhoods apart. Forty years later, for almost at least two decades, they have been digging up Boston again. When they did finish a section of the tunnel the roof fell in. “The destruction of a perfectly good home, just to dig a hole, and then fill it up again.”

Do you Remember” is one of the best songs written about 9/11. “Do you remember where you were; everyone is asking, were you hurt?” What makes this song so good is that it captures the horror of that day with out fascist faux patriotism or the complete fiction that is Neil Young’s “Let’s Roll.” Thalia sings “No I can’t say that I remember, just the blue skies of September….White ash hair, wide eye stare, blue skies so clear, the ozone of fear.”

I do not know if Thalia played a show in NYC on 9/11 or if this is what she imagined what it would be like, but the scene shifts to the evening, “And I was walking to the bar, I was carrying my guitar, and I know I tried to call you, but it was very hard, there was a TV on the street, it was a real sad affair, and the sky reflected silence, onto a harmony of sirens. Do you remember?” The most haunting image for me that day, watching it on TV, was paper flying through the ash cover street to the wails of sound devices that the firemen were wearing to find each other when they could not see; it truly was a harmony of sirens and it was also a very sad affair. What makes this song great is she leaves the politics out; it is a document of the fear that transcended that day and how it has not been the same since.

Body Memory” is a classic sorrowful song by Thalia. It starts with a guitar, drum roll and pining violins. Thalia’s raw and striking voice reflects the sadness of the song. “Sometimes it feels so good to dance; these days I can’t take that chance.” She continues later, “I am trapped and tripping out, can you help me out?” The situation of the song is left ambiguous; what is not is the feeling. That is in your face; the music swells, the violin whines, the song builds, a piano is added. “There so much going on right now and no one can know what is going to happen…but you tell me it is all planned, just like everything you’ve ever had, like a body memory, I can’t feel myself, Am I free?” The question is profound, especially in the times we are living in.

In “Come Undone” it is not clear if the barbs she hurls are at a partner or herself. “You can keep some things out, you can keep some things in, but you can’t hold anything from an arm’s distance.” The song double backs on itself, “If you don’t like the answers, maybe you shouldn’t ask. Every thing can come undone so fast.” So one is left to ponder if one should allow oneself to be open and risk being hurt or shut down and be alone.

As the discs progresses Thalia outdoes herself in heartbreak on each song. “Green & Blue” is as moving as it is stately. The dual vocals at the end of this song, is like a sucker punch in the gut. The song ends abruptly after and leaves you reeling. “Stars” is a slow burn, before it explodes in a super nova. Then the song leaves as it entered, gentle and quietly. In the last song on the disc, “Begin to Exhume,” despondency turns to rage. It is as brutal as anything that the early days of Come produced.

To call this disc a return to form would be a misnomer. Thalia hasn’t made any missteps along her path. She has just chosen to explore different palettes, from the heaviness of early Come work to the nearly baroque sound of later Come era and later solo projects. With this disc she manages to blend both. If this is a masterwork it is one among many in her canon. (Thrill Jockey) (Dan Cohoon)