Monday, August 26, 2013

Last of the Country Gentlemen

It's Depressing Album Week! Let's talk about the albums that make us sad...

As far as my dad is concerned, all of the music I like is exceptionally depressing. He's heard me listening to Radiohead, Bright Eyes, and perhaps one of the less jolly Eels albums, and he's tarred my entire collection with that same bleak brush.

So he's already convinced that every artist on my wall is super-miserable. And then one day, he hears Last of the Country Gentlemen by Josh T. Pearson bleeding through the wall, and he can't help himself. "This is an extremely depressing album," he opines, poking his head around my bedroom door. "Even by your standards."

If we're talking about depressing albums (and we are, all week) I can't fail to mention LotCG: as far as dear old dad is concerned, it's the most depressing album I've got.

And you can definitely see how he arrived at this conclusion. This CD contains almost an hour of music, and the only instruments involved are an acoustic guitar, a modest string section*, and Pearson's haunted, howling voice. Each song is a wretched, drawn-out thing, lamenting the implosion of one relationship or another; it could be that they're all about the same breakup, but I prefer to think that each song details The End Times of a different relationship. Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ, for example, finds Josh T. dumping a lady who's become a little too dependent on him, while Honeymoon's Great! Wish You Were Her is sung a few years down the line, by which point Pearson is a married man with a head full of second thoughts.

It's not a barrel of laughs, that's for sure, but depressing? I never feel depressed by the end of it. It's emotional, it's intimate, it's almost uncomfortably personal...and yet the songs, downbeat though they are, make me feel happy. It's hard to explain, but take a listen to Country Dumb (video below) and tell me whether you feel miserable or strangely uplifted by the end of it.

"We're the kind who start the books but who just do not finish,
We're the kind who have ten thousand would-be-great, ungrateful, too-long run-on songs,
We're the kind still stuck in the past but who see well into circle future,
You see I miss you woman and baby you ain't even yet gone.
You see I miss you babe and woman you ain't even yet gone."

Oh god, it's cathartic! By this point, incidentally, our narrator is completely defeated - a broken man who knows precisely how his relationships will crash and burn before they've even hit the dual carriageway. And as depressing as that sounds, I love it! Just like I love Let Down by Radiohead, Easy/Lucky/Free by Bright Eyes, and The Medication is Wearing Off by Eels. They ought to make me feel cold and empty, but instead they make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Of course, there are songs and albums that do make me feel properly depressed. Two in particular spring to mind, but you'll have to wait a little longer to find out what they are. See you on Wednesday for more Depressing Album Week action!

*Featuring Warren Ellis out of The Dirty Three and The Bad Seeds! Wikipedia never fails to teach me something new.

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