A Mind for Madness

Musings on art, philosophy, mathematics, and physics


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The Whisker’s War of Currents

Today we’ll take a quick break from math. Also, we missed my blog’s birthday of two years last week! It’s time for an album review. I haven’t done one for awhile, but it is just necessary. Someone needs to get the word out. This post will be controversial in the sense that most of what I write will probably be contested by the band members themselves. Sometimes it takes an outside observer to point some things out about yourself that you don’t even realize, though.

When Pitchfork released their top 200 albums of the 2000’s they describe The Strokes album Is This It in the following way, “At the time, these guys were na├»ve enough (and good-looking enough) to firmly believe they were the best band in the world; and for a moment, it actually came true.” I’d like to make the exact opposite claim about The Whiskers. It is precisely because this band is so naive about how good they really are that makes them so great.

Sometimes when a band wants to do something original or make a new sound, you can tell. And let’s face it. That isn’t good. It sounds contrived, and it is weird for the sole purpose of being weird. It doesn’t flow. It doesn’t sound natural. Now I don’t know if The Whiskers are trying to make their own original sound or if they are just doing what feels right, but my guess would be the latter.

Some songs are short. Some songs are long. It just depends on what works for the song. That is the key to making great music in my mind. You have to do what feels right. You can’t force versus and choruses and song patterns. If you do that it won’t work. You’ll have some contrived, inorganic mess. Some of these songs, like Ornithopters, meander for 9 minutes never really settling on a well-defined genre. Slipping in and out of fast, slow, happy, sad, you name it, as naturally as anything I’ve ever heard. If the song wants to take them somewhere, then they don’t fight it.

I really wish more artists would adhere to this principle. To me it is the fundamental bottom line. Let’s move on to other things they did right. It reveals itself slowly after repeated listens. This only happens in good art in my experience. Mediocre art gets boring after repeated viewings or listens. Good art opens itself up and becomes more interesting as you shift through the layers.

One of these incredibly dense layers is the lyrics. The lyrics are for the most part fast. Boy are there a lot of them. They are cryptic. They are full of symbolism. This makes it really easy to miss incredibly emotional moments on the first several listens. Imagine my surprise at 5 minutes (probably 30 stanzas of poetry in) or so into a song with tons of lyrics when I heard the following out of nowhere:

Hold my eyes
Hold my hand
Leave a sign so I know where to land
When you call out to me and say

please come back to me
I pray
I’ll fly back fast
Fly back home

So you will not die alone
But I was too late

It is moments like these that I continue to listen to tons of crap just to find gems like this. I had chills all over.

If lyrics aren’t your thing, and you only care about fantastically beautiful layering of melody and chord structure, you won’t be disappointed here either. You’ll hear things you’ve never heard before, but won’t be able to imagine why, since they sound so perfectly natural. I get goosebumps everytime I listen to Marsh Blood. They layered vocals, and strings, acoustic guitar, slide guitar are a perfect combination. The lyrics contain such great wordplay as “This heart of gold getting stabbed by silverware is pumping iron ink on these magnetic skies”.

It should be noted that this is the first Whiskers album that I feel this way about. I’ve liked them in the past, but I think the maturity of creating a few albums really comes out in this one. They’ve stepped up from being a bunch of people that love making music to a band that has created a truly cohesive work of art. If you like original, creative, energetic, emotionally infused, carefully constructed music (and who doesn’t?) then this is the band for you. I don’t like to make early predicitions, but I have no doubt that this will still be one my favorite albums of the year in December. But don’t take my word for it. You can download it for $5 from Awkwardcore Records. I’d like to hear comments on what others think.

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