Review Summary: words!A melodramatic review with great para-phrasing from super-philosophical chats with a very wise Adam Knott:
I’ve listened to All We Got Is Eachother
about three hundred times by now (three hundred seems like the round-about number I always use to say of an album, “I will never stop listening to you”), but I’d like to think about the epiphany I had the first time I heard it, which was sort of just this: I am drawn to words. I had listened to Valtari
all week, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it, but I was very much processing it; I wasn’t letting Sigur Ros wash over me or give me the experience
and so forth (remember the first time you heard post-rock, indeed); it was just a superb ambient record that I was trying to work out piece by piece. And so I said to Adam Knott, in some sort of tepid defence of the album’s inherent beauty, “but it’s ambience.” It was somewhat a revelation for the music Sigur Ros make; it is inherently what it is, and they can steadfastly make that music forever and be a band beautiful even in “processing.” But as far as big, broad weeks for music go, All We Got Is Eachother
was piling on a completely different experience, one I never processed, but one still as beautiful (and not in spite of any “flaws”) as Valtari
, only in a completely different way. And I think I know now, much thanks to the same guy I was presenting this argument to, what made All We Got Is Eachother
so brilliant, and so much the experience it is. “But words.”
And he knew that would get me, because I bloody love words. 2012, like any other, has been a year in which I realise that I grasp onto music that tells plain old stories with a sense of poetic absence: I love folk punk, because while the genre seems to bare no description at all (and, as with any genre, all of its artists reject the term heartily), it happens to collect lyricists who say things no-one else will but absolutely can- to say, with quite the shrug Paul Baribeau might, “I loved my parents, my parents loved me / but they just couldn’t love eachother,” or to scream something as ridiculously relatable as Sean Bonnette recognises, like “you’re your own human being with your own understanding of what it means to suffer / and that’s a huge, fu
ckin’ bummer.” This isn’t limited to folk-punk, obviously, but it’s very much the folk-punk way, and I’ll take any artist that can write down a downer like this- the ‘ain’t that just the way it goes’ conversation with ‘self- and deposit it into a song. If you’re part of the Plan-It-X Records family, you’re struggling to make ends meet, coming to terms with what it means to be a broke musician, and you’ve got a tonne of problems beyond that: the song is where your problems go to hide in plain sight.
Like that, All We Got Is Eachother
is problems sung, told in how it happened and why it sucked. And so it is made in that heart-breaking and honest tradition of telling a sad sinking story. It is built on the struggles Chris Calvin found, of funding the record and facing how music can even be released these days (the CD no longer being a thing, sadly), but it’s even more than that in its music and words, which were written about issues so deep and devastating they feel like one story reinforced, song for song. All We Got Is Each Other
is directly written for one person, the band’s late friend and her struggle with mental illness in the face of a world embittered, or just confused by it: so much so is this record consumed with the story that every moment circles around to the train she wasn’t allowed on or the friends with nothing- and annoyingly, everything- to say. If it’s angry, though, it’s good; this is heartfelt anger that never forgets what for, knowing a life is worth celebrating in the here and now, and affecting beyond the band’s experience for that realisation. I guess, in a way, beauty exists in this album much in the same way it does in Valtari
: it’s all way, way too much to handle, so here’s the climax, or the words, or whatever speaks for the rough patch.
And it really is true that All We Got Is Each Other
never forgets what (and who) the words were for. The memory of a friend is inflected so heavily on All We Got Is Each Other
that the point on which Ghost Mice choose to end is quite literally by her side. The cover of her band, Peanucle puts a lot of emphasis on the record’s message, but this time it isn’t a damning criticism of people who didn’t do enough; instead, it’s an immensely touching goodbye, insanely reflective of how this genre is, or, beyond that, just how this bunch of people choose to seek community. The tribute is turned into a large vocal chant, and looks to friendship in the face of a world we’re constantly reminded on this record is screwed up: “all we got is each other / all punks got is each other” are lines sung to cling to the best friend it was written for, and celebrate her beyond the frustration vented throughout the record’s story.
There’s so little to tell of these songs beyond the chords played and the stories that so defiantly speak for themselves. It’s one of those
records, an emphatic one like Ghost Mice will always make, and one that needn’t be constructed out of song-writing when life stares you in the face like this. I can’t explain why words always seem to hit the hardest in music, but it’s the lyrical artists I trail back to; back to the heavy-hearted and boozy Craig Finn, to the wishful and elegant John K. Samson, to anyone who can take a conversation with themselves and make you join in. Because then there’s Chris Calvin and Ghost Mice amidst all this, and their dialogue is as closed as any; All We Got Is Eachother
doesn’t concern us. Until its final moment it remains a startlingly private piece of music. And yet we follow this story to its conclusion, and in this plain and simple storytelling it hits harder than anything. It’s all down to words, even when they’re too lousy to really help. On “How It Sounds,” Calvin and Jones damn words to hell: “they’ll keep talking to there’s no words left.” But they never stop singing.