Monday, October 05, 2009

Soul Junk

Glen Galaxy a.k.a. Glen Galloway continues his march through Psalms that he started with his album 1959 and his ever-evolving band Soul-Junk. This go-around he focuses on Psalms 119 which is the longest in the book. He breaks it down over 22 sections. Glen has always been full of surprises, from leaving the skronk-tastic Trumans Water to sing biblically inspired songs with Soul-Junk, to incorporating hip-hop, free jazz and noise, not only in the same album, but sometimes even in the same songs. The one thing you can count on with a Soul-Junk album, besides the biblical themes, is a drastic U-turn from his previous efforts.

This time he has the help of Daniel from the Danielson Famile, long time collaborator Brian Cantrell & Emil Nikolaisen who hails from Norway. He also has Todd Fadel sitting on keys; he is best known to me anyways as the man behind the great all-ages club Meow Meow around the turn of the century in Portland, Oregon. Jie Jin also contributes, who is a well respected classical musician from my own stomping grounds of the Delaware Valley. He has backing vocals from several of the Danielson Famile relatives and Glen’s own family members.

What is so surprising about this album, besides making ancient text sit neatly within a pop song context, is the fact that several of these songs are so poppy...or as poppy as someone who was in the noise freak-out band Trumans Water can be. Not all the harsh rough edges have been removed, but the jaggedness sits inside of a beautiful landscape of pure pop.

One of my favorite tracks is “[Lamed] Forever O Lord your word is settled in Heaven.” Despite the mouthful of a title, this is about as straight ahead has Glen has been. It sounds like a laid-back country-tinged Pavement tune, with of course direct quotes from Psalms, “I am yours, save me forth, I have sought your precepts Lord.” Glen is a tricky bugger; there is always one song that gets stuck in my head and I find my self mumbling bible verses to myself while driving around. Perhaps I would have remained a Christian if the hymns at church sounded like this.

From a musical context this album is very enjoyable listening. It gets interesting when Glen chooses chipper melodies to go with the bad ass old testament God, or conversely when he chooses ragged glory to spread the good news. Don’t let this God talk shy you away from listening -- “[QOPH] Scottish Yak” proves that being Christian does not mean you can’t linguistically have some fun, at least with the song titles.

When Glen said in an interview with me that he planned to sing the whole bible I thought he was joking; I now know he was serious. His sonic palette continues to evolve, and expand; this is probably the first album of his that I would use the word lush to describe. The one thing you can count on from Glen is change. I can’t wait to hear the next installment; I will be surprised if I am not surprised by the sonic shifts in future output. (Sounds Familyre) (Dan Cohoon)