Review Summary: “It's like an Indian burn, so red, so rugged.”
Dirty, untamed, and pissed, For the Boats
smacks together moments of anxious adolescence. It comes with the same atmosphere as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians
, that crunchy, dirty feeling where I know that the protagonist of the story might just screw it up, again, this time; that slow and heavy impending consequence of a mistake made ages ago but just, now, catching up; heartbeat spinning out and flatlining simultaneously; some genuine but incomprehensible regret; and, a restless fidget in anticipation.
Jonathan “JD” Dimitri is at his best, here. While perhaps he doesn’t demonstrate a large range or even hit the notes he intended, the grinding rasp mashes with a blasé and unpolished performance to scrape out long, gravely croons. For every moment he ends a line a beat too early, he bellows out another a few too long. In The Same Mistake
, he clangors out the comment “so I’m your cigareeeetttee” with a warning growl.
The Same Mistake
doesn’t follow a classic structure or even really conclude. In the novela, he has sex with a person he shouldn’t. Neither finds anything close to healthy. It leaves him cold and wet and self-loathing. “I’m the reason you can’t win,” JD says, somewhere afar. He knows he should end it. “You should have stayed a friend.” He thinks she might even know, but he doesn’t care. He’ll “make that mistake again,” and I know I would, too, because I’m arrogant, self-interested, and vain.
The instrumentation comes out sounding as if filtered through dirt. The drums crunch and crack and punch. The guitars slap and kick me like the world’s worst wakeup call. They emerge aggressive *** for Brains
, snaps and spins and growls. But they hit a lighter equilibrium, sounding like stacking cups and windchimes in slower tracks like For the Ears
. And angry adolescence is spontaneously catchy with wonderfully delivered lines like “I'm losing all credibility, and my humility, in these garages” in the song Garages
grips me with love and anger and self-loathing. JD describes why he won’t leave a relationship long gone sour, doesn’t want to escape it—hell, loves
it. He likes the unabashed honesty, the rough sex, and it all mixes with low self-esteem. In the chorus, just as the guitars inflame and his voice goes raw, he answers why he’d stay in an ill climate, “It's just the way that you call my name at night! It's just the way that you hold my wrist too tight!” He pauses between shouts, a bit lost, before finishing the thought, “It's like an Indian burn, so red, so rugged.” And I know the yellow-blue bruises on my hips, the scratches on my back, and the harsh words, and sometimes I want it back, again.
For the Boats
has a few disappointers: the opener, for one. But there’s a beautiful album buried in the middle, there.