Review Summary: I know what it's like to have to trade a girlfriend for a muse...
It’s unfortunate that a substantial amount of people will get into Yonlu primarily because he killed himself at the age of sixteen. If history is any indication, the buildup for his only record, A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed Is Incredibly Mediocre
, will only be astronomically heightened with the infamous “posthumous” tag that turns mediocre albums into intriguing ones and great albums into legends. Still, with Yonlu (aka Vinicius Gageiro Marques), it’s practically impossible to talk about A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed
without mentioning his imminent suicide. The record is drenched with a stark loneliness and melancholy that defines Marques’ work and foreshadows his fate. Toying with every style from Elliott Smith aping doubled-vocals folk to breakbeat techno, Yonlu creates an impressively diverse work with the kind of shit
-to-the-wind mentality and experimental approach one would expect from a well-listened teenager. Cross that with his exceptional ability to articulate emotional turmoil and the results speak for themselves. A Society in which No Tear Is Shed Is Incredibly Mediocre
is a sprawling and yet unmistakably unified collection of intensely personal songs by a gifted artist cut down before he even approached his prime.
With that set up, it would be no surprise to find Yonlu’s album to be an excessively dreary requiem, like a Joy Division record gone wacky, but here’s the thing with A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed
: It’s monstrously catchy. Rarely can the adjective “boppy” be applied to a song featuring the line “Memories of old times made me who I’ll never be: me,”
and yet that’s exactly how best to describe album opener “I Know What It’s Like.” Casually flipping between bossa nova verses and a swung chorus, “I Know What It’s Like” is the most easy-to-swallow of A Society
’s fourteen tracks, but this in no way separates it from the brooding record that is to follow. Instead, it serves as a clean introduction to the gloomy themes Yonlu explores throughout the majority of the record.
Those themes should be pretty obvious by about track three. In case the opening lyric of ”I know what it’s like to be left out when all your friends try the new hip suicide thing,”
does not make them perfectly clear, track names like “Humiliation,” “Katie Don’t Be Depressed,” and “Suicide” (hint: there’s one now!) certainly will. Most of A Society…
talks about Yonlu’s depression with a kind of c’est la vie attitude, at times suggesting a disturbing amount of peace with death. Yonlu can intentionally sing a line as obvious as ”I’ll tell you why I wanna die”
with unsettling dryness and pull off something as unexpectedly confused as “I’m in love with the girl I am”
with a little bit of wit. Yonlu even incorporates brief flashes of humor, sticking a hip hop drumbeat into the satirically country “Boy and the Tiger” and kidding “Seriously, I know, what the fuck?”
in “Katie Don’t Be Depressed.” Such quick glimpses of the coy kid in Yonlu serve to offset the general melancholy of the album, which is welcome. It makes his more introspective songs all the more striking and also gives the album some essential flavor.
While the acoustic majority of A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed
will connect Yonlu to the likes of Elliott Smith and The Microphones, the album’s penchant for atmospheric interludes and nods to post rock help A Society…
stand apart. For example, the minimalist acoustic drone of “Q-Tip” is the darkest point of the album, featuring Yonlu using samples to devastating effect, while “Deskjet (remix)” is a Flashbulb-esque interlude that, despite being the only “techno” track on the record, flows seamlessly with the rest of the album. This is enough to propel the A Society…
through a more lackluster second half in which Yonlu explores popular 60’s Latin music (“Estrela, Estrela,” “Luona”) and an unfortunate pairing of bland music with ripe-for-parody lines about depression, death, etc (“Phrygian”). The album’s lone snag feels like a kink that is ironed out with experience and more self-discovery than one can have in eleventh grade, and probably could have been if Yonlu's career continued. It’s not enough to derail the album off a quality path, however, and the beautiful finale in store is more than enough to erase any memories of missteps.
Although the stigma this album will carry along with it as a “suicide record” is unfortunate, there’s simply no way of avoiding it. Listening to the sonic release of “Waterfall” is as sad as A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed
gets, and yet the song is a cheery, wordless refrain. The entire record has that sort of creepy air to it, like an ironic finality. In “Waterfall,” Yonlu builds a vocal phrase into a hypnotic swirl for a good three minutes before giving way to a choir humming a major chord, and the sound is joyful and pleasant. It is the knowledge of what Yonlu was about to do to himself that makes the track sound as if the kid has finally given up, hitting the fifth stage of grief, creating the powerful paradox. Still, none of that irony would matter if the songs were terrible. It is Yonlu’s talent that truly makes A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed Is Incredibly Mediocre
so intriguing. His album is addictive, powerful, and imperfect. So yes, the fact he killed himself gives the record a different tone, and yes it will give this album a lot of attention. Who cares? It’s not like it’s attention it doesn’t deserve.