Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Gary- Farewell Foolish Objects

This will please no one, but me.
I was unfamiliar with The Gary's music, but their latest LP "Farewell Foolish Objects" was sent to me, mostly, I suspect, because the band is comprised of friends of friends of mine. So, I mean no disrespect when I say that they have made a magnificent Shellac record. In fact, they have made the record I wanted out of Shellac.
See, you start with a punk-simple, but math-cerebral riff structure, like Shellac, all clang and thrum, and then add various ornaments that would be considered full song ideas in less-ambitious hands and minds. What makes it surpass Shellac is that the ideas thus introduced are sharper, more graceful, and even more poetic.
Take opener "Blank"- can;t get simpler than the opening two note bass pattern, followed up by the speak sing announcement " I drew blank in the morning- I beat the sun...again". That's a whole blues song's worth of ideas, in a single line. After two and a half minutes of of simmering skeletal blues mope, the song explodes into a line reversing everything " But you know I'm just funning, when I said I'm out running" while the feedback and splash cymbals dissolve into chaos. Shellac have never directed their intellect to something so emotional, raw, and human as this.
Track two " Coming up for Air" is like Shellac meets the Dream Syndicate, in a defiant punk psychedelia- again, applying the Shellac formula to feed a completely different kind of pup.
But, then, on track five, the genius really shows through- with a seasick drone of violins, an ascending bass figure weaving a modality from it, like spiderwebs on rust, carrying little flecks of oxidized metal, tiny shards of guitar get carried along, while Dave gives out little haikus of tired experience, like a Sailor, been out on night watch for too long, scratching a desperate entry into a journal that might go into enemy hands and then crescendos into a wordless riff resolving the tension. It;s minimal, but evocative, and the mind of the listener ( at least this listener) fills in the blanks.
Likewise, track four "No Shame" is like Richard Thompson playing a Shellac song- celtic modes and drones energizing a mathy frame while the words are like little shards of images, like broken man's drunken mutterings. It's a cold little world encapsulated in two minutes- efficient, succinct, and perfect.
So, why won't anybody but me like my thoughts? Because the band will likely be slightly miffed by the Shellac comparison- but, my defense is that there's no other obvious point of reference, and if they don't listen to Shellac, you most certainly do, if you're listening to them.
It's an interesting proposal to me, and one that finally explains a phenomena to me- I've never understood the appeal of a tribute band, until now. But, here's a band that is clearly indebted to one band- so much so that I have a hard time hearing them as a separate entity, but improving upon them in ways both subtle and plain-the difference to me is passion: in essence, who's more passionate about the work? The artist or the fan? The artist can grow tired of the work, can yearn to be free of it, but is chained to that work, while the fan remains enthralled to the work, until or unless the cease to be a fan- hence the appeal of a tribute band- fans cherishing a work, moreso than the artist. Are The Gary a Shellac tribute band? I can see how that argument can be made, and if you played The Gary and Shellac for someone who's not an obsessive- as I have done- as a kind of blind taste test, they really won't know who is who- but if you're a fan of Shellac, I would suggest listening to The Gary, instead- theirs is the more satisfying record. In that way, they are not a tribute band to Shellac - they are the better option.