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Archive for the ‘Thou’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THOU-Tiny Desk Concert #847 (May 6, 2019).

I saw Thou play a show last year and they were loud, abrasive and intimidating.  So much so that when I saw this collective of people behind the Tiny Desk, I had to double check to make sure it was the same band.

I mean, the band I saw had a male singer who growled/screamed all of the lyrics.  This band had three women singing and was entirely quiet.

I had a ticket to a show recently featuring Screaming Females (who headlined for Thou last time, too) and what was listed as a rare acoustic show from Thou.  I assume it must have sounded something like this.

And this is pretty awesome.

But what is going on?

The first-ever metal band at the Tiny Desk is a little bit of a head fake. Make no mistake, Thou makes some of the heaviest, most tortuous music around; but the band also constantly experiments with beautifully ornate arrangements that balance its most extreme measures. In a set culled from the acoustic-driven Inconsolable — one of six full-lengths, EPs and splits the band released last year (no, really) — Thou shows us just how crushing quiet can be.

Guitarist KC Stafford plays guitar and sings lead.  The song is brooding and powerful in its slow quietness.

“This is the softest I’ve ever played,” guitarist KC Stafford told me during sound check.  Yes, their downtuned guitars are turned down low at the NPR Music office, but the weight is still ever-present. Stafford takes the lead on “The Hammer” as co-vocalists Emily McWilliams (blonde) and Melissa Guion (dark hair) sing, “Bring down the hammer / A bludgeon to my shrines / Bring down the hammer / To the corpse of my worship.”

McWilliams’ more high -pitched voice is an excellent companion to Stafford’s deeper delivery.

Guion also makes ambient-pop music under the name MJ Guider and MJ Guider was the opening act for the quiet show.

Stafford played bass when I saw them.  The bassist at this show, Mitch Wells, doesn’t look familiar from that night although he and rhythm guitarist Andy Gibbs are founding members (along with lead guitarist Matthew Thudium).  Perhaps Mitch was not around for that tour?  But he certainly brings some mirth to the proceedings.  He;s wearing a crazy bright shirt (not typical for a doom metal band) and he says that playing the Tiny Desk was a big old bucket list.

Even though the band’s line up has stayed pretty consistent since they began in 2005, they have had three drummers.  Tyler Coburn (who might be the reincarnation of Andy Kaufman) joined in 2018 which means I probably didn’t see him at my show.

The cryptic lyrics and melodies are largely written by Bryan Funck, who normally screams his existential despair for Thou. But for these songs and this Tiny Desk, he lurked in the audience.

So that’s where he was.  Turns out that for the Inconsolable EP, he didn’t sing anything, allowing guest vocalists to sing everything.

For the second song “Come Home, You Are Missed” McWilliams sings lead.  She sang on the EP as well.  Guion accompanies her very nicely.  For this song Stafford’s guitar seems tuned down so far you can hear the string vibrating and rumbling as she plays open chords.

The final lines, “Privacy is priceless to me” are repeated three times.

Thou’s decade-plus discography is an exercise in exploration and refinement, finding new textures in heft, which is why this set offers such a slow-burning thrill to its oeuvre.

I am now regretting even more not going to that show.  I can’t get over what a different experience it would have been.

The closing cut, “The Unspeakable Oath,” lead by guitarist Matthew Thudium, is a twinkling grunge song that overlaps guitar melodies with the grace and grandiosity of a whale.

I don’t believe that Thudium ever sang when I saw them, but his voice is fantastic.  He doesn’t even sing on the EP.  His voice seems wasted in a screaming band.

I really like this song a lot.  I like the way the verses quietly build up and then release with a simple but effective guitar riff as a segue to the next part.  The final part of the song also features some interesting/creepy “ahhhs” from McWilliams and Guion which conclude the song very tidily.

[READ: May 6, 2019] “The Escape”

Eddie Prior is the protagonist of this story and he makes a grand entrance.

As the story opens, Eddie has entered the Pavilion and is heading down the grand staircase when he slips (leather dancing shoes on parquet floor).  But he keeps smiling and manages to tap out the beat with each step, rescuing himself as he comes to a stop between two striking women.  Both women are named Millie and both are embarrassed by his attention.

The blonde Millie is dismissive.  The brunette Millie is embarrassed, but finds him handsome.  Later she agrees to dance with him and a year later agrees to marry him.

As with another recent New Yorker story, this one jumps ahead quickly.  There are children, a war, and bitter words but through it all they are Catholic, so they just get on with it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2018] Thou

I was unfamiliar with Thou before this show.  Reviews were pretty interesting so I was really intrigued to hear them.

Gregory Heaney from All Music wrote “the band’s sound blends the shuddering heaviness of doom with the oppressive atmospherics of black metal, giving the band a monolithic sound that feels, at times, inescapable.”

And nothing could be more accurate.  Thou are loud.  Really loud.  I have seen Sunn O))) who are possibly the loudest band on the planet and Thou was more inescapable.  And I did not find it enjoyable, possibly because I was unprepared.

Musically the band is rather interesting.  They play heavy doom metal, but they have complex (and heavy) chords and riffs–sometimes with the bassist playing counterpoint.  Their riffs were slow, but the notes they played were not always the obvious choice.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THOU-“Something in the Way” (2011).

Sometimes you hear a  cover version and you really don’t know what to think.  Maybe you hate it from the very beginning.  And then maybe it does something and you kind of hate it a little more.  And then suddenly it turns the corner and who knows what they’re doing.

This song opens almost ponderously slowly.  I guess it’s not that much different from the original , but it feels so really slow.  And then, when they get to the “something in the way” part, the band kicks in with really heavy squalling feedback and cookie monster vocals shouting “Something in the Way.”  And I kind of didn’t like anything.  But then came the surprise.  the “oooh” part was sung very straight and melodically.  The song reverts back to the original slow vocals section and you realize that the singer sounds an awful lot like Cobain himself. And the second time when the chorus comes in, you expect it and while you may not like the cookie monster vocals, the juxtaposition to the sweet “oohs” is strangely cathartic.

Not for everyone by a long shot, but very interesting nonetheless, especially the way the feedback squalls and wheedles.

Thou has done a number of Nirvana covers evidently.  There’s a cover of “Anuerysm” in this live show (in which they acknowledge that the fans aren’t there to see them).  The music is spot on, but man, those vocals are hard to handle.

[READ: June 29, 2012] “The Golden Vanity”

As yesterday’s story was about “the husband,” today’s story is about “the author” (have short story writers run out of names?).  The author has just written a very successful book in which the main character tries very hard not to be nervous in social situations.  The author himself gets nervous in social situations.  When people know he wrote the book they scrutinize him to see if he gets awkward in social situations…which makes him more awkward…etc.  It’s a pretty funny concept.

The opening section has the author meeting the librarian.  He’s put in an awkward situation because his hands are full when she waves.  So he gets emabrassed and scowls.  Then he thinks she assumes he is scowling at her.  He gets through the encounter with advice from his shrink.

The next scene jumps quickly (I wonder what happened to the librarian) to his medical condition.  The author has to have his wisdome teeth out.  He spends a lot of the story wondering is he should have a local or a twilight anesthetic (which costs $3,000 more and calls for an I.V.). He wonders aloud a lot to his friend Liza, who tolerates his neuroses and enjoys talking about them, even though she says things like “We’re not talking about this again.”

The evening before the surgery (he of course chose the I.V.) he went on a date.  Well, not really a date (he liked to say that), but friends going out together with a single woman there to meet him.  Naturally this made him nervous too.  But he and Hannah hit it off (lots of drinks helped).

There’s a whole section devoted to waiting room art which I appreciated quite a bit.  Who decies what to buy?  It’s not like the doctors would come out and look on it and admire it, right?  This sort of melds with a discussion about the preserved letters of famous writers.  Do libraries buy emails?  Do they buy the letters of young writers as a security upon further greateness?  These ideas are pretty theoretical yet the way it is written keeps it inetersting. (more…)

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