It’s a freezing Sunday morning and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I could try to go to the American Diner I just dreamt of. Or maybe I should go to the hospital and have my head checked after hitting the ice. Nah, it’s probably me still being groggy.
I walk slowly and the sun is coyly appearing between the clouds. It helps not, as Winter won’t get a hint that its welcome is overstayed. This town looks like a real Ghost Town.
That rings a bell.
Speaking of clanging noises, a nearby Church seems to be calling for mass. I could weasel my way in and get some free tea and cookies (sorry, biscuits!) It wouldn’t be the first time I change denominations for food.
I sit in a pew by the back, all by myself, incognito like. People usually go to the front, so I only have to soldier on through the whole thing. First Reading breezes through, like a Michael Bay montage and the Second Reading is a letter from some dude to another group of dudes, talking about an ox, chickpeas and beans. I dunno, I half remember Catholic school…
A woman sits besides me. She has brown-reddish curly hair and she’s excuses herself. She grabs a Missal just as the priest starts the sermon.
The sermon is an extended one. If this were a gig, it would be a guitar solo. You imagine it will be fast and furious (like a Smashing Pumpkins solo) but it ends like a Dream Theater solo (eternal). I check my clock and the sermon has been running for 10 minutes now. I grow restless but I just know there’s glorious tea and
cookies biscuits waiting after the last “peace be with you!” is said.
“A bit tedious, this geezer, innit?” whispers the girl to me.
“He does spin a long yarn.”
“I know, I know… you reckon he’s going to mention that story with the son giving up his inheritance for lentils?”
“Ugh… no. Say, are you new here?”
“Sort of. I’m a cultural attaché.”
“Really, where? What are you promoting?”
“A band that is playing in town.”
“Silly. Which band?”
“That’s a name of a band?”
“Sure, they are great. It’s the project of a dude called Mike Kinsella. He’s also in some rather great bands, but his Owen project has really clinched with me.”
“Are you a fan of them as well, by any chance?”
“Well, I really dig his previous album, Ghost Town. In fact, if you were to stalk me on Last.Fm, you’d see ‘I believe’ is my most played track.”
“Really? How “most played” are we talking here?”
“Wowzers! You might be obsessed.”
“Wow. When you said “attaché” you meant stalker, right?”
“Sort of. What’s your name?”
We get shushed by an old lady stinking of lavender and I go back to what really matters.
“Anyways, Owen‘s got a new album, called L’ami du peuple. Could I tell you more about this superb album?”
“Yes, because the priest is talking about Job, which is the worst part of the Bible.”
“Worst than Leviticus?”
Her head tilts to the side and something goes “pop” and then she nods.
“Right, Mr. Owen obsessive, do your thing!”
“Well, I think this album,, is a continuation of a lot of the splendid work Owen did in Ghost Town. Sure, there is no moment like ‘I believe’ that will grab you on a first spin, but whatever lacks in a ‘omfg, standout moment klaxon!‘ more than makes up on cohesiveness. This album is a real experience from opener ‘I got high’ to closer, ‘Vivid Dreams’.”
“So while ‘I got high’ starts with the usual layered approach that always serves a delightful slice of home-cooked Americana Rock that slowly shoots some grand musical salvo, it’s just a starter dish. ‘Blues to black’ suckerpunches you into thinking it’s an acoustic loveliness delight, but no, a loud distortion leads to a grand rock riff. Owen doing stadium rock sounds like bad news, but fret not, as Kinsella keeps that dreamy, otherworldly signature sound he loves to create while still doing stuff that would make an 80s hairspray band happy. And even if that doesn’t convince you, well, how about him atoning for any perceived sins with the gorgeous track ‘Love is not enough’, using some Red House Painters-like atmospheres and lavish strings?”
“‘Coffin companions’ might have a slight downbeat feel trying to pop through the happy-go-lucky rhythms, another staple of Owen‘s creations. Have I mentioned the multilayered approach?”
“There’s this song, ‘The Burial’ that has so many layers that it resembles an onion. A happiness onion.”
” So, ‘Coffin Companions’, ‘The Burial’…have you noticed a pattern here?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to delve into it. Let me finish my bluster. ‘Bad Blood’ is the first single and it’s quite poppy, with some lovely fingerpicking and piano double-teaming your emotions into an imaginary wrestling ring. Owen wins. ‘Who Cares?’ is easily my fave track, as it has a very mean undertone with a somber cello in the latter half of the track. I felt a tad scared and sad by the end of it. Truly epic. ‘A fever’ does lift your spirits, though, and ‘Where do I begin? is a sweet track with a playful piano. Lyrically, it’s great, a sort of conversation from the point of view from a middle aged person talking to his spouse, admitting he’s a bit drunk and bored with life and the little vicissitudes that sometimes feel unbearable. It’s a great, honest slice of life track and this sort of honesty is something I appreciate in Owen.”
“I see. What else?”
“Well, the album finishes with ‘Vivid dreams’. “How long have I been sleeping? Are you sure I’m not dead?” ponders Kinsella in this track that segues beautifully from ‘Where do I begin?’ and proceeds to talk about … huh…”
“You know, the protagonist of this song is either dead or came back from a coma. This is a bit upsetting. He sounds mournful when singing “So much has changed / Even our skies are different “. I’m confused, as the music is beautiful but the lyrics do represent a chiaroscuro form that makes the song even more biting. I think Kinsella wears his emotions on his sleeves and they just jump from there into paper, becoming his songs.”
“Maybe. Sounds like something I’d like to listen to. An album about growing up and maturing, reflecting on what has passed by and what will come. When does he play here?”
“Ah, he is not in town.”
“You could learn a thing or two about honesty.”
“I know. Say, I’ll be back.”
I leave the church quietly. The sermon is still going as I board a bus that will saunter leisurely towards my home. You know? The sky sure does look different today…
Words: Sam J. Valdés López