Far be it from me to ever ignore art born of pain.
Any Man in America
Artist: Blue October
Far be it from me to ever ignore art born of pain. My all time favorite band is Joy Division, I love the paintings of Van Gogh, and I generally gravitate towards things from a less than sanguine perspective. I can't exactly recall how I ended up downloading Blue October's Any Man in America from iTunes. Many times when I sift through iTunes the path I take is less than direct. I did sample a few songs and Justin Furstenfeld's voice sort of leapt out at me, hints of Peter Gabriel at his most emotive with a whiskey edge to it. The instrumentation was epic and sweeping, the production crisp and modern.
I put it on my iPod and listen to it while driving through a gray, rainy morning to one of my business accounts. The relentless gloom of the day does not abate.
It doesn't take long as by the second actual song, the lyrics drop into confessional narrative and the pain begins to ooze out of the music. Occasional reverb drenched samples drift between songs including a child's distressed voice. Justin does not address his situation in artistically veiled subtlety, For the Love is almost horrific in recounting his wife's boyfriend attending her first Lamaze class in his place and living in a hotel room until his daughter's birth. He isn't shy to drop some f-bombs or painfully blunt assessment of the interloper in his situation. There's an odd influx of hip-hop influence at times, some of it sounds like Eminem or something with Justin rapping over some well constructed beds of electronics. If one song can have me feeling better about the $9.99 bundle of bleakness it's the song The Chills. This is one gigantic song. It's probably not his best vocal performance of the album as it's more of an anthem that he pushes a bit on but it's a fist pumping song with a great hook in it. It rivals some of my favorite anthems by bands like The Sheila Divine, U2 and their ilk.
There is a palpable sense of despair and anger that permeates this album like none other I can compare it to. None of it feels contrived or calculated which makes it, frankly, kind of horrific-maybe even pornographic as you feel you're being allowed to view something that's too intimate to be shared as an uninvolved observer. It honestly left me in a funk, it's that powerful.
The songwriting and instrumental performances are very strong, modern rock borrowing from many genres and influences, none of it feels ill conceived although the rap thing leaves me a bit cold.