Review Summary: fill in all the cracks and holes with gold
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”
There’s a captivating dichotomy that rests at the heart of The Positions. Sonically, the record sounds like it exists in the clouds, some 6000 feet above the ground, while its lyrics are stubbornly concerned with what is 6 feet under it. But, despite its confusion and despite it being perpetually adrift in its own sorrow, the heart of this record beats defiantly. It values life just as much as it understands death.
Our journey fades in with the pedestrian lumber of a kick-drum. The steady beat reflects the slow beep of an ICU heart-rate monitor, a wordless thesis statement of sorts. Vital Signs brings to life the two people at the centre of the albums concept, framing them as a couple willing to walk along the shore, undeterred by the tide gradually creeping in. Somewhere along the hour, I imagine it’s at the beginning of Knuckles White Dry, Dave Le’aupepe hoists his terminally ill partner into his arms, carrying her the rest of the way. He's too tired for this ***.
This is the most bipolar arena rock you will ever hear. It’s like if The Killers wrote more than just hooks, or if The Gaslight Anthem spent most of their time in and around hospitals. I’ve personally seen bras thrown up on stage at a Gang of Youths gig, jarringly absurd when framed in the context of a song about sickness and suicide. They are that kind of band, and this is that kind of record – celebratory, triumphant, downtrodden and tragic.
Albums like this need a paean, lest they collapse under their own leaden atmosphere. Magnolia is a ***ed up kind of catharsis, all life-affirming crescendo and snarky attitude. A snapshot of a man both ready to die and ready "...to kick some ***ing ass". It's a song that celebrates life in the same way that a wake does, its just at the other end of the tunnel. Even when the darkness is abject, the record - whether it be through the robust production or Le'aupepe's sonorous vocals - glimmers with the possibility of something worth living for, which is a tough balance to strike, but an important one.
The Positions digs deep into what it means to be a survivor, a persistent experiencer of things, a person that is broken but not broken down. At the end of this album, the last lonely notes float out of frame, ready to continue living outside the context of a misfortune. You should be, too.