Part 5 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
In the late 90’s the music scene was shifting quickly, and as a wannabe hipster, I made sure to keep up with what was going on (I still do, but in a very geeky way). Having a dial-up connection (switching between Juno or AOL) allowed me the freedom to hop on to Webcrawler and plug-in a band’s name that I had recently heard of. Information still was a bit scarce in those days (hard to believe, really), but each day the “world wide web” seemed to offer more information with richer details. While looking up information on The Ladybug Transistor (whose album The Albermarle Sound will be featured one day in this column) I stumbled upon a rich history that linked me back to the story of Guppyboy / The Essex Green (and later, Sixth Great Lake). I got in touch with someone by the name of Brad who drummed in ANOTHER associated band called Eef, and have followed his musical adventures ever since at BradleysAlmanac.
In early 2005 a free preview of the upcoming album by Summer at Shatter Creek was offered up on BradleysAlmanac called “Your Ever Changing Moods”. I was instantly hooked – ghostly vocals, Lennon-esque music, lyrics that portrayed some sort of inner demon at work. You may call that depressing music – I call it perfection. Once the album was released on the indie label Badman, I instantly ordered it and awaited that glorious day that it would show up in my mailbox. I still can recall my anticipation as I played this disc for the 1st time….then instantly played it again….then again. An absolute masterpiece, and though it’s fairly recent (released 7 years ago), I want to feature it in my column because it has received little to no press over the years (other than an absurd review by a hipster website).
Album in Detail
“Your Ever Changing Moods” starts off the album with Craig Gurwich (who IS Summer at Shatter Creek) chanting a bit before acoustic guitar comes into play. The music falls into a strum as Craig’s voice comes in singing “it’s no good to / carry it around / you’ve got to go and let it out / and you can’t hide from all your friends / without help it won’t end” The music is engaging, not quite as depressing as the lyrics. Craig’s vocals remind me of Mark Kozelek (of Red House Painters / Sun Kil Moon) with a bit of Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse, RIP). Perfect start to this album.
“All the Answers” A song that slows down the pace just a bit from the opener. Acoustic guitar is the focus with double tracked vocals. That voice – again – is the highlight of this song. Key lyrics: “Upon exit from my house you’ll find / that the answers will not change your mind / you can think all you want but you’ll see / that you are just who you want to be”
“Worlds Away” – I’ve listened to this song 100’s of times and it never fails to reach into my emotional core. The song starts with Craig singing “You used to be so witty and so sharp / With lots of energy and tons of heart / I think about how you were way back then / A lot has changed” – the music comes in, reminding me of early 70’s John Lennon. I’ve often thought about what this song is about and the key is in the last verse “I can’t believe how long it takes to mend / Malpractice by the hand of just one hand / The world has simply turned its back on you / To make their line go quicker”
“Fall Down Drunk” – A song that is an acoustic based indictment of a friend or family member who is an alcoholic. Personally, I like to have a drink here and there, but since alcoholism reaches back into both my mother and fathers families I tend to not drink very much. I understand this song when he sings beautifully with concealed rage “…but you’re a DRUNK…”. Haunting.
“Something to Calm Me” – The song that has the strongest John Lennon vibe in my opinion. The song begins with the vocals sounding muted, music is pianos, drums “I like to move slowly / because I think so fast / you have something that will calm me / something that will last” leading into a verse that is something that I identify with really well “I like to travel lightly / leave the weight behind / I like to go where no one knows me / to adapt to what I find” The music kicks in with piano and heavenly vocals. One of my favorite songs of all time.
“You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Loved” – At this point I feel fairly redundant in gushing about how perfectly the music compliments Craig’s vocals, but I have to say – this song is another stunning number. Guitar picking, angelic vox, and lyrics that arrive at the perfect time with each word arriving as if it always existed “luckily you don’t have to be totally perfect to be loved / come to me my little lamb / you’ll see that you’re just like me / imperfect / in love / who defeats life’s tragedy of insecurities / and is able to love / can’t you see how i came to be so totally obsessive with love”
“Rebecca” – Echo’d drums and double tracked vocals, taking advantage of the vox as an instrument. The music keeps coming back to a little keyboard (or is that a recorder) refrain. Key lyric “…until something else controls you” – emotional with a bit of anger underneath.
“Optimistic” Mostly an acoustic guitar jam with vocals that are at times double tracked. Sad, resigned. Perfect. “I used to be Optimistic / But I can’t lie / All I see is the dying of the earth, junk piles of trash and disease” Electric guitar comes in over top of everything at about the 2:30 mark of the song giving an abrasive edge to the lyrics, finally.
“Structure” After the emotional demons exorcised in the earlier 8 songs, the album concludes with a simple acoustic ditty with Craig singing “1-2-3-4” and humming ghostly sayings about structure over top of that as the song progresses. A beautiful way to end this album.
I highly recommend you seek this out – it is fairly cheap used at various places on the “world wide web”. I’m not sure what happened to Summer at Shatter Creek, this seems to be their (his) 2nd and last album. The 1st album has its moments, but this record is a masterpiece.
Join me next week as I discuss Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s – Trilogy