Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Burst Apart

Last week, I blogged about Mutual Benefit's Skip a Sinking Stone, an album that's all about getting over past breakups and learning to believe in love once more.

Today, I'd like to talk about an album that's similar in theme but far more visceral and desperate in its delivery: Burst Apart by The Antlers.

Released in May 2011, Burst Apart is the sequel to Hospice, also known as The Most Depressing Album of All Time™. Hospice was a concept album about an abusive relationship with someone who has terminal cancer, although it's possible that the terminal cancer was just a metaphor for the gradual deterioration of the relationship itself; either way, it made for very miserable listening.

Burst Apart dealt with the aftermath of the horrible experience detailed on Hospice. The album opens with I Don't Want Love, which is a pretty unequivocal way for frontman Peter Silberman to inform us that his romantic life has been pretty awful lately and that he doesn't see himself embarking upon a new relationship any time soon.

As with Skip a Sinking Stone, Burst Apart follows a fragile narrator as he sees an opportunity to find love and lasting happiness but hesitates because past experience has taught him that such endeavours always end badly. However, Jordan Lee's doubts seem positively tranquil compare to those that nag at Silberman, who over the course of Burst Apart is tormented by violent visions (I Don't Want Love), haunted by ominous dreams (Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out), and snared by the tangles that previous lovers left in his heart (French Exit).

One of my favourite songs on Burst Apart is the bleakly insistent No Widows, which finds our protagonist feeling almost relieved that he'll never have another partner - at least he doesn't have to worry about leaving someone behind if he's killed in a freak road accident or something.

Seriously, The Antlers are one of the most aggressively miserable bands I've ever encountered. It amazes me when people complain that, for example, Morrissey's mopey lyrics make them want to kill themselves - this stuff makes I Know It's Over look like something from Junior Choice.

All of this wretched doubt and indecision reaches some kind of resolution on Putting the Dog to SleepBurst Apart's cathartic closing track. This song is no less likely to leave you sobbing in the foetal position than any of those that preceded it - in fact, it may be even more so - but the lyrics make it clear that, while Silberman's wounds will take a while to fully heal, there may just be some happiness in his future, some chance that he'll learn to trust again.

"Prove to me
I'm not gonna die alone
Put your arm 'round my collarbone
And open the door

Don't lie to me
If you're putting the dog to sleep
That pet you just couldn't keep
And couldn't afford

Well, prove to me
I'm not gonna die alone
Unstitch that shit I've sewn
To close up the hole, that tore through my skin

Well, my trust in you
Is a dog with a broken leg
Tendons too torn to beg
For you to let me back in

You said, 'I can't prove to you
You're not gonna die alone
But trust me to take you home
To clean up that blood all over your paws

You can't keep running out
Kicking yourself off the bed
Kicking yourself in the head
Because you're kicking me too...'

'Put your trust in me'
I'm not gonna die alone
'Put your trust in me'
I'm not gonna die alone
I don't think so...

And that's what Burst Apart is all about, in the end: just as the cover art suggests, it's about peering through the darkness and the smears that your past has left upon your windshield and trying to see the glow of that light at the end of the tunnel.

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