Music Blues: Things Haven’t Gone Well (Thrill Jockey, 2014)

August 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Music Blues: Things Haven't Gone Well

Music Blues: Things Haven’t Gone Well

Music Blues is the solo project of Stephan Tanner, bassist for Harvey Milk, a doom metal group I’ve heard a lot about but never listened to. Even without knowing the group’s history, this album still seems like the work of a side project; it’s instrumental, and the songs seem like sketches or ideas that haven’t been fleshed out into proper songs, whether or not they’re supposed to have vocals. Tracks like “Premature Caesarean Removal Delivery” and “Great Depression” slowly lurch from one chord to the next, and you expect it to turn into something, but it doesn’t. “Tears Tie Children” is 50 seconds of a slowed-down Crosby Stills & Nash sample, for no discernible reason. “Hopelessness and Worthlessness” goes through various angles of doomy guitar chords, before segueing into “Trying and Giving Up”, which does eventually settle into a more steady, recognizable groove. “Failure” is where he seems to get struck down the most, shrouded in swarms of echo and producing the harshest guitar sounds on the album. The swirling dirgecore of “It’s Not Going To Get Better” is the album’s centerpiece, and “Tremendous Misery Sets In” continues in this vein. Despite the songs’ increasingly negative, depressed titles, the actual songs seem to get more inspired, developed and energetic as the album progresses, and by “The Price Is Wrong”, it feels like there’s even boiling-hot peak-of-summer sun burning through the rainclouds. There’s even some gallopping drum fills that make you think it’s about to turn hardcore or speed-metal. The “bonus track” seems to have electronic drums and synths, suggesting that it’s a demo or even a taste of a different side project altogether. As side project-y and almost comically self-loathing as this album may seem, it definitely does channel negativity into something productive and enjoyable.

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