When I sat down 2 months ago (Brendanís going
to skin me) to review the newest Angels of Light album, Everything
Is Good Here/Please Come Home, I thought it was going
to be a simple task. After all, I have a deep appreciation for
all things Gira, though more unkind folks might deem the level
of my interest unhealthy. But whatís important is that Iím familiar
with the manís work. Iíve enjoyed the tribal/industrial bludgeoning
of Cop and Body to Body/Job to Job
from the early Swans. I absolutely revel in the layered, damp
swath of The Great Annihilator and Soundtracks
for the Blind. I blazed through Giraís text, The
Consumer, and slipped into overwhelmed sleep listening
to The Body Lovers. And when Angels of Light released New
Mother and How I Loved You, I devoured
these gems, embracing the new direction in which Michael Gira
was taking his music.
So, I figured I could jump right into the new album, immerse
myself in it, and have a thoughtful review done in a few days.
Man, was I wrong.
The thing is this: I couldnít pick up a pen/pencil/keyboard/etc.
and just start writing because I couldnít stop listening to
this album. This is not music you can listen to a couple of
times and then proceed to pick apart for praise or derision.
And you certainly canít write while listening to this album.
The music requires your attention. It seizes it, and doesnít
Thereís a strong connection between the Angels of Light live
album, We Were Alive, and this new album. Gira
used the proceeds from the sale of We Were Alive
(750 limited issue) to fund Everything Is Good Here/Please
Come Home, and that connection is reflected in studio
versions of four tracks from the live album (Nations,
All Soulsí Rising, What Will Come, and What
You Were). The differences between the versions of these
tracks echo the differences between most of Giraís live work
and his studio work. Giraís live shows always sound more primal
and powerful than his albums. His voice is generally more pure
and intimate live, as if the eyes of the crowd act as a confessional
for Gira to pour himself into. The music, on the other hand,
is usually more blurred -- the edges of sound less sharp than
on the studio albums.
The studio version of What Will Come features Giraís
voice straining over the drown of instrumentation. It contains
a delicate interaction of sound that seems less threatening
than the power of the We Were Alive version.
What You Were is polished -- the music really shines
on the studio version. Giraís voice isnít as intimate as on
the live version, though.
All Soulsí Rising is one of the most compelling things
Angels of Light has done to date. Itís barely controlled chaos.
The live version is more plodding than driving and has less
obvious structure, but the song is still one of Angels of Lightís
Nations showcases Gira experimenting with the power
and rhythm of language set to his trademark hypnotic backdrop.
The pure power of this song will make it one of Giraís standards,
clamored for at every show.
The other tracks on Everything Is Good Here/Please Come
Home illustrate the range of Giraís musical style. Sunset
Park and Wedding are hypnotic, layered hymns while
Rose of Los Angeles (one of the albumís absolutely stellar
tracks) spins maniacally out of control like a 1930ís cartoon
depicting a carnival on acid (think Fritz the Cat).
Palisades is intimate and delicate -- a lament for the
freedom and innocence that is torn from us (ďWhere is the girl
that once lived in you?Ē). The theme of loss is repeated in
The Family God, a heartbreaking portrait of a woman enslaved
in the shackles of marriage/family -- subverting her personality,
dreams and ambitions until all sheís doing is ďcounting the
time, filling the glass.Ē
And Kosinsky, the albumís third trackÖ I just want to
close my eyes and float away on this song. Itís possibly the
most beautiful melody Gira has ever shared with his listeners.
Giraís music has always exhibited power, brutality, and grace
(usually all at once), and Everything Is Good Here/Please
Come Home follows in that vein. But it also serves to
inform the listener that Giraís music is continuing to evolve,
to change, and invites you to come with it. Gira has said that
Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home is one
of the best things he has ever done. I canít say I disagree