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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Consonant (Fenway)

This Consonant album was one of the biggest surprises of 2002 for me, surfacing as a new Clint Conley-penned album of rock songs which was magic to those of us who worship at the altar of Burma. Nineteen years is a long time to hide away, and expectations were understandably low. The band had a guy from Bedhead and a guy from Come, but how good could the songs be? I guess if you spend nineteen years writing stuff, you're going to have twelve good tunes for a CD. But nothing could quite prepare me for how good this actually was. Or IS - because it still sounds absolutely great, a perfect merger of classic rock, 80's and 90's American guitar indie and a bit of the Burma fire. It's all love songs, of course, or rather contemplations of love and loss structured somewhat around these weird acrostic poems by Holly Anderson. There's bitterness seeping out of tunes like 'Call it L---' and 'Who Touches You Now?', but it's the more lunar language that kills me - a hopeless 40something romantic who is struggling to put things into context. Anderson's poems are built around the names of flowers and Conley has certainly adapted them well into rock phrasing, managing to sing lines like 'Cured but curious we embrace post-pathetic happiness: neutered, fixed, companionable' without it sounding as strange as it probably just did to read it. The fuzzy guitars, drum fills and amped-up energy ('Buckets of Flowers, Porno Mags'; 'That Boston Life') are raging with confidence and mastery; for an aging punk, there's no element of embarrassment. Chris Brokaw's guitars find the right places - for those of us who grew up with music that itself grew up on Burma, it's all just perfect. There's oodles of 'Trem Two' style moodiness, but still a hint of 'That's How I Escaped my Certain Fate'. And Roger Miller turns up a few times too. The pop hooks are there - not singsong like the Beatles but subtle, mind-burrowing lyrical fragments that I had bouncing around in my head for much of 2002. I remember having the 'We couldn't ever make enough / time for lips and hips and arms' following around my consciousness for so long that I was starting to go nuts; of course, for a song about the ghost of a relationship (and the song I refer to is the closing tune 'What a Body Could Do'), it's practically supernatural. 'Post-Pathetic' is an absolutely brilliant song, with a bit of college 80s jangle, sharp sharp sharp words, and a self-deprecating sexuality that gets better with every listen. It's the influencer meeting his influencees, and I was pretty much obsessed with this CD when it came out - my digipak is dinged and dented from taking it to work every day. Of course, I haven't played it for a few years which is why it feels so good and familiar now - I actually am on the third consecutive listen. Rock music connects when it's music and lyrics meeting in perfect balance, and that's what's here. I love lines like 'Wasn't she full of wild want / for is he and her she?' but even more when the band is providing the perfect presentation of it. My love for Consonant is pretty strong, and I realise a bit idiosyncratic, but just wait, cause there's gonna be lots of these as we go along.

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