Review Summary: This is how you look when you die...
I didn’t expect much of this album, it was like the present you’d choose because you are low on options. Songs About Leaving and You Should Be At Home Here were already in the database in the album section, this one was in the compilation section. When I looked further into it I saw there was a lot of disagreement about whether or not this is a compilation album or a legit release.
Make no mistake, the annex ‘1996-1999’ is there to indicate the amount of time that has passed in the making of this record. This is an album that gives you a little peek at the other directions Carissa’s Wierd could have taken for the albums to come. The development process this product has undergone is quite remarkable as you can read further on.
So when this caught my eye and with the thought in mind that nearly everyone who’d mention Carissa’s Wierd sounds the praises of ‘SAL’ I was hesitant. It couldn’t possibly be that much of a disappointment now would it?
Lucky enough I let my otherwise judgmental nature go for a second as I was drinking (too) much that evening (for reasons I will not elaborate on). And I went outside for a long walk, took the train to Bruges and wandered around at the train station, in and out the coffee shops with this playing on repeat.
Although being labeled as slowcore through their existence, Carissa’s Wierd have always played that tad faster than groups as Low, Codeine and others. In fact , CW is the misfit of the genre. Implementing violins on a regular basis, often dual guitar work, crescendo build-ups and male/female vocals.
On their first effort Mat Brooke and Jenn Ghetto (the only two continuous members of the outfit) mix the slow paced orchestral songs with some genuine slowcore and some contemporary folk. The latter which would later be thinned out heavily and restricted to one song on their last album.
By throwing all that in over the span of 3-4 years this might be the perfect album for those who have been put off initially by the stamp that has been put on the rest of their discography. ‘Drunk With The Only Saints I Know’, ‘Heather Rodes’ and ‘A Bathtile Green’ are easy accessible folkier songs that outshine some even more devoted folk artists.
What really sets this apart from the rest of their work though is the consistency. While You Should Be At Home Here and Songs About Leaving sometimes have that little dash of monotony (while still radiating an angelic brilliance) this is inapparent here. This is due to the higher dose of guitars employed, especially on the shorter tracks. These serve as a perfect binding agent between the lengthier slower paced tracks.
‘This isn’t like me at all’. Common themes in the lyrical work are uncertainty ,regret, missed opportunities and longing. Play this and throw in lots of booze and you have the perfect suicide albums on your hands right? Not so, even when these two young people-back then- were clearly discomforted by the thoughts of themselves and the lives that go with them they don’t drown in their desolation; interludes and outros on a couple of songs give an amusing and welcome break out of the lengthy woven atmosphere, while sending the message that you should not take them that seriously.
They sing about the nasty feeling one might get after a one night stand where you yet again have broken your own principles (‘One Night Stand’), about the difficulties of love (of course) and hypocrisy (‘Fluorescent Lights’). About the desolation and insomnia lying in bed thinking about the guilt one feels for his/her actions that affected others(Blankets Stare’).
And they do just all of that while keeping you in a constant state of nearly transcendence.
The whispered vocals that are present on all pre 2011 Carissa’s Wierd work get under your skin.
But more so than on the successors. The production on this record is of a nature that compliments the vocals in a perfect manner. Its lo-fi characteristics are what do the trick, yet Mat and Jenn did not intend to sound that way, you could call it a lucky coincidence.
For those who did not know, the band never meant to sound as quiet as they were. The hushed vocals are merely the outcome of the early recording days in the house of Jenn Ghetto, for they didn’t want to wake up her grandma.
These (early)recordings were established on a 4-track machine–yes, you read that right-.
Later on, when they had more possibilities, this necessity to hush remained as the trademark we all know and love them for.
Hence why there’s sometimes an audible quality difference on some tracks. Most notably on ‘To Be There Now’ where Ghetto sings throughout the track. The production enhances the tenderness in her voice, even more so…makes it vulnerable. So at the time she whispers with a shaking voice “So just to be there now one more time with you…we could safely say it’s finally the end of all this…” it feels as if you heart starts racing towards your rib cage.
I indulged in listening to this record, and found myself shortly after floating drunk (with my own saints) on the rhythm of Lazy Eyelids trying to decipher the narrations of that ever so cute voice of Jenn Ghetto (gosh, those overlapping vocals make it hard) . It had been long since I lost the awareness of time and space solely through music. Well, and the few drinks I've had.
I missed the last train home that night. Cabs are expensive people, try to avoid them.
Ugly But Honest.