Review Summary: ... with Too Much to Think About.
Back in the nineties, Isaac Brock didn't really go for hooks. As This is a Long Drive...
indicates, he preferred rope.
In fact, it's made pretty clear within the opening bars of Dramamine that this may just be the longest drive of your life, the radio's gutted, and no we won’t have time to stop for a picnic at sunset. “Travelling, swallowing, dramamine”: this opening salvo practically hacked up from the back of Brock’s throat, a steadily weakening coughing fit before he flicks his cigarette from the driver’s window. A puddle of phlegm follows it a few seconds later (“we kiss on the mouth but still cough down our sleeves”), but the beauty of it all is that there is a beauty to it at all.
The guitars, staggering out of ‘Dramamine’, knocking back drinks in every track along the highway of this album, and finally kicking down the doors of ‘Space Travel Is Boring’, are partly responsible for this beauty, though it's not immediately clear why, lurching as they do between conspiratorial whispers, wayward tirades, and aggressive outbursts. If my metaphors are far too convoluted (and they are), let me spell it out for you: these guitars sound drunk, bad-tempered, and not a long drive from pathetic.
And yet, Brock and co somehow conjure up a redemptive grace for these sad strings. More than that: these guitars sound knowing
. They positively twinkle, but it’s that disturbing twinkle you see in the eye of the drunk who has, despite his wandering gaze and damp chin, caught you right between the eyes with a burst of insight that rearranges your brain furniture and paints it all grey. You’re both in it together now, a sorrow the two of you have to share, and this sense of company and solidarity operates like a trash-can fire with which to warm the new iciness inside.
It doesn’t seem to make sense that, under such toxic, damp-eyed inebriation, Brock can not only land his rope with such accuracy at the first swing, but that he has enough whisky-energy to pull you further in with every track until you are practically sat in the passenger seat watching the pulse of his cigarette’s glow. This is surely the case - and the culmination of such an approach - with ‘Talking *** About a Pretty Sunset’, possibly the band’s greatest song, but one which confirms that, on the contrary, Brock does have a lot to think about. Perhaps too much. Off the back of some plain acoustic guitar chords, uncomfortable truth after uncomfortable truth is held up, naked, ugly and squirming, to the light. Sure, you could just walk away, but doing so would only serve to legitimise their looming presence in your life. After one revelation too many - “Change my mind so much I can’t even trust it / My mind changed me so much I can’t even trust myself” - the noose isn’t just pulled, but, with its deadly, sweet, embracing caress, it’s tightened.
Guitars chatter. Violins enter. Air departs.
I think I get why they chose that hue.