Review Summary: Affection at a cost
I might have dismissed Idiot Proverbs
had I not learnt the chorus to lead single ‘Entitled Generation’ sooner. “Damn our entitled generation,” frontman Caleb Karvountzis whines, atop rumbling guitars and inert snare claps. The latter part of this hook I had, at first, mistaken for “anti-youth
generation”. Perhaps not the least forgivable of mischaracterisations -- within the context of the song, either results in a similar sentiment -- although I do think it highlights an important distinction. Were it not for the song’s sarcastic demeanor, I’m not convinced it’d be as successful as it is. Under a spotted veil of semi-ironic (see: semi-earnest) social critique, the band find themselves at their most comfortable. Karvountzis at once bemoans the titular age of entitlement, while accosting previous generations for having cultivated it. He bastardises an ancient proverb, “what you plant is what you get”. The song’s a little confused, but I think that’s the point: a curious commitment, to self-flagellate on the behalf of an entire generation -- vindication, scorn -- an admonition of noone and everyone, all at once. It’s within these uncertain dichotomies (or lack thereof) that Tiny Little Houses flourish, an endearing blend of blind assertiveness and bold irresolution, punctuating an unhealthy dose of pessimism.
It’s no surprise that each of the album’s singles land toward its front-end, reflective of a particular progression found throughout Idiot Proverbs
, both sonic and thematic. But also: the hooks, friends, the hooks
. Opener ‘Garbage Bin’ -- the band’s most successful thus far -- anthemises what Karvountzis sees as the gradual, unavoidable perversion of childhood innocence. It’s fun, though, I promise: “I could keep swimming, but I wanna give in,/ I’m a garbage bin, life’s a garbage bin”, chants the well-meaning crowd. Despite a pervading pessimism, Idiot Proverbs
excels at gleaning positives from overbearing negatives; even if we do give in, we might as well drown smiling. In the end, the music is as energetic as it is sleepy. Fixed (though not stuck) within an oft-higher register, the vocals range from snot-nosed and childish (‘Garbage Bin’) to despairingly reflective (‘The Void’). A welp defines the entirety of ‘Garbage Bin’. Of course, though, the liveliness of feel-good(-about-feeling-bad) ‘Short Hair’ would be nothing without the rest of the band. Guitarist Sean Mullins stitches together a lethargic, borderline apathetic riff that bubbles on top of the verses before unexpectedly bursting through thin walls of feedback to dance along with the chorus. As fuzzed-out and rebellious as the band get, the noise rock and folk punk influences are undeniable; the band more than often embody what is best described as indie pop however, dabbling also in emo and shoegaze.
On title track ‘Idiot Proverbs’, the band capitaluate; the album is shed of all pretense as Karvountzis lets out one final sigh of frustration: “there’s never a time you’ll ever work it all out”. The clearest articulation of the album’s central theme, the song laments what Karvountzis sees as an overbearing set of expectations placed on millenials. No amount of sarcasm on ‘Entitled Generation’ can mask the bitterness found in its introductory couplet: “I’m 25 and still not living out of home,/ got two degrees and I’m stuck working on the phones”. The line from which the song and album get their title, however, is perhaps a tad more enlightening: “these are just my idiot proverbs,/ and these are just the things I say”. Idiot Proverbs
feels lost. It is
confused. But that’s the point. At no point does Karvountzis claim to be an authority on these matters -- no more is he certain of these things than the authors he chooses to reference, be it Twain, Tolstoy, or Moses himself. More than anything, Idiot Proverbs
is fueled by Karvountzis’ own anxieties. Penultimate track, ‘The Void’, is despairing testament to such, large and dream-like; the shoegaze worship is most apparent here, on all but the vocals -- laced with reverb, drawling, but melodic as ever. Tiny Little Houses’ is an inextricable charm. Idiot Proverbs
, losing hope, lulls itself into a pit of depression from which it never escapes -- closer ‘Drag Me’ finds itself lost at the centre of it -- but there is a light, and it never goes out. I promise.