Review Summary: Bokeh and closed aspect ratios and corroded images and you and me and the wind.
Video is a funny thing. It’s been around only a moment or two. We’ve been plucking at strings and moaning melodically for the better part of our existence but recording video is somehow new. Even still, I find myself enraptured by false nostalgia for things I wasn’t around to experience simply by proxy of having had the old explained to me through the screen and maybe that’s enough sometimes. That’s sort of what intrigues me so much about The Innocence Mission. I’ve only been following the band a couple of years now though they’ve been uniting tender tone and timbre for three decades. I was around negative nine when their self titled record snuck out of the rafters. I’d have found it surprising enough to feel homesick for sounds I was yet to experience but it was more the images that flooded into my head which were enough to floor me. While things have changed since 1989, The Innocence Mission haven’t failed to overload my periphery with my anecdotes, aptly tinged with all the overlays and colour corrections one could want on their favourite memories. A continuously rolling camera of sorts, The Innocence Mission seem entirely content in just throwing at me the times I’ve cherished even if they’d be insignificant to anyone else, and few montages they’ve strewn together quite paint it all like Sun on the Square
It’s all shrouded in a comforting musk that seems to have Karen Peris in just as much of a bind as it does myself. The choice instrumentation hugs her croons irrespective of how content or uncertain she comes off, and this cascading acoustic soliloquy manages to speak just as loudly of the band’s introspections as the words on Peris’ lips. While the acoustic guitar is the primary director of motion and colour, every flourish of key and string pads out an already impossibly warm landscape with just the right birds and trees to keep you lost. It’s difficult to say how many times I caught myself drifting into oblivion as “Green Bus” traced me through golds and greens and golds, ”perfect and wondrous”
, and eventually I had to ask why I wasn’t allowing the pleasure of giving in. It must have been some sort of defense mechanism because the rest of Sun on the Square
passed me by like a long trip on a rainy day many years ago and I had to make a more conscious effort as to not let it slip me by again.
I think I actually recoiled a little listening to “Star of Land and Sea”. Don Peris seems to be similarly incapable of escaping the embrace of his own music. His voice isn’t shaky as much as it is completely honest to a near painful degree, and Karen’s mild harmonies feed into the overwhelmingly rose-tinted undercurrent that narrowly keeps this album from being crushing without remorse. Watching the Peris crew (and also you, Mike) dance between hopes and fears should probably leave one out of breath but it doesn’t. Kinda like running away as fast as you can from an impending “hey man, I appreciate you”. It’s funny how a verse as lullaby-esque as this could express such a vivid stream of everything and I guess that must count for something;
Be a light to all, you shine
into darker lands, you shine,
a friend to friendless men, you shine,
The Innocence Mission have one of those Bandcamp profile pictures that makes you smile a little even if you just had a bad day at work and that’s probably a good way to sum up the record. It’s not sweet entirely without the bitter. I’m sure it could break me with the right weather. Some of the instrumental choices also feel a little confused and out of place but it’s such a rarity that I could probably write it off as pure artistic intent and not feel too bad about myself. An album by a group from well before my time have made something that points purely to me in my mind, and coyly taunts me with precious footage of my more delicate moments. Even these moments somehow look beautiful in light of my general dissociation from the past, be it out of indifference or cowardice, and I’m cautiously welcoming of The Innocence Mission to throw on a new VHS and laugh and cry at and with me again sometime.