Review Summary: Grief's corridors explored mercilessly.
What happened to your biggest demons? How about the moment when you realized your life wasn’t quite what you thought it was, or that night you were tossing and turning, hoping to find your old self? The key moments of your life you’d prefer to keep buried are wedged together effortlessly by Fraser McGowan to make a panorama of tangible loss on Against a Simple Wooden Cross
. This album was constructed with glimmers of hope, but its defining factor is its pervading grief, its raincloud of despair. While the positive moments are a certifiable force they can be chalked up to the necessary yang to the yin of nights without sleep, snapshots of a life lost in a single nightmare. Skirmishes with our worst demons. Protests with life, and brushes with death. McGowan is a shining example of a man successfully combating his despair, turning his biggest nightmare into something tangible and admirable.
The ever-brilliant light at the end of the tunnel, the undeniable optimism that perseveres through each note of sorrow, prevents Against a Simple Wooden Cross
from being too gloomy for its own good. For instance, listen to the brooding root note of “Waiting Rooms & Chemists,” how it provides hopeful backdrop for an otherwise drab picture. There are many instances like this, moments where McGowan’s despair becomes more real because of the acceptance against which it reverberates and leaves a shadow more palatable than it ever could have known.
Against a Simple Wooden Cross
is a success because of how its hooks transform one man’s woes into the sentiments of a community. McGowan’s latest offering appeals to fans of sprawling post-rock, bolstering the ten-minute “Scottish Grief” at the forefront, while “After the Blackout” wouldn’t sound out of place as an exceptionally dreary Iron & Wine b-side. The album is a cohesive whole through achieving different styles, a coating of paint made up of colors that complement each other nicely.