Monday, July 31, 2006

Sleepwalkers, storm clouds, tail-biters and transformation.

So, I've been sitting here, listening to Mother Of All Saints intently for a while now, staring at the album cover, and wishing that the two lovers caught mid-embrace on it would turn to me and explain what the hell to say about such a weird, murky chunk of 70 minutes and 23 tracks, but as of yet, no luck. It’s such a blurry head-fuck of an album that I’m not even sure those are lovers pictured on the cover…they could be preparing to eat one another’s faces off, I can’t tell for sure.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 didn't sound a like a five-piece band on Mother Of All Saints, they sounded like five different bands. These tunes were loaded up with even more trap-doors and booby-hatches than before, and with each band member (except drummer Jay Paget) contributing lead vocals, you couldn't be quite sure what was around the next bend. The Fellers had always been slippery shape-shifters, prone to sudden mid-song acrobatics and genre-shuffling, but here, it felt like anything could submerge from the swirl at any moment. It was best to just let it wash over you and not ask too many questions.

"He's suspended in dreams tonight," crooned Brian Hageman on the lurching, manic "Catcher", the third track in on Mother, and it's a predicament that could apply to the whole album, rather than just the song's subject. From beginning to end, Mother Of All Saints sounds like a fever-dream, delirious and sweaty and a bit hazy. I don’t know what the band were ingesting during the recording sessions for this beast, but it was certainly potent stuff, if nothing else.

(l-r: Anne Eickelberg, Mark Davies, Jay Paget, Brian Hageman, Hugh Swarts)

The characters in these songs are desperate people, clawing frantically out of the speakers, shaking you soundly, repeatedly. "Speak to me! About your holy! fucking! experience!" shrieks Anne Eickelberg on "Tell Me", as the song self-destructs and collapses around her in a shuddering frenzy. "Hornet's Heart" features a narrator who wishes to buy a spike "for planting hornets in the heart of my wife". He needs this because the wife, well, she's had "conversations with my darker side....and now she's left me with a poison mind". The song twitches and spins in tight, tail-biting circles as we're told, "I let slip I love her so, I'd cook her to keep her warm".

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hornet's Heart (MP3, 192kbps, 3.7MB)

One of my other favorites from Mother Of All Saints is the surreal sprawl of "Wide Forehead". Everything here just clicks - the band sounds huge, hallucinatory and thunderous, but in a truly skewed way. "Flakes fill the air and the bug-eyed embrace is ours....a 2-D cloud tries to stop your heart."

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Wide Forehead (MP3, 192kbps, 5.8MB)

The band embarked on a U.S. tour with Sun City Girls in '92, and once back home, spent much of the following year keeping a low profile. The Fellers released only a single EP during 1993...but what an set of songs it turned out to be. Despite being just four tracks, Admonishing The Bishops is the Thinking Fellers at the absolute peak of their powers. Featuring a crude cover drawing of what appeared to be levitating skewers speared with marshmallows, the EP found the band sounding entirely transformed, refreshed, renewed and - unexpectedly- achingly beautiful at times.

The lead-off track, "Hurricane", a slow-burning creeper, sounded like nothing the band had ever done before....a dreamy, eerie hypno-lullaby with a storm-cloud of churning noise at its center, the track immediately let the listener know that they were in for a journey over these next four songs. Mark Davies' keening, spooked vocals cut through the drone like a laser beam, and the whole thing slowly untangled itself into near-stillness, a few times...and roared back to life, repeatedly, in a shimmering, warped billow of guitar-spray. Here was a tune to sleepwalk to. The band was in telepathy-mode here - there's such an effortless, weightless feeling to the music, but a tense, ominous undercurrent at the same time. I could be completely biased, sure, as I've been in awe of this song for the past 13 years, but it still gives me the chills when I listen to it, it's so fucking beautiful and cracked and odd. I hope you enjoy it.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hurricane (MP3, 192kpbs, 8.6MB)

Eat This Grenade! will crawl from the sludge yet again next Monday, August 7th, with the third and final piece of our Fellers retrospective....Until then, be well, keep your ears happy, and get some rest, it's late.

1 comment:

Chris Ott said...