|Joseph Arthur — The Family (June 3rd, 2016)|
Joseph Arthur — The Family (June 3rd, 2016) ♣•♦ “Základem alba je Grand Piano Steinway ročník 1912, stál všehovšudy pouze 1.200 USD. Existují fotografie Johna Lennona a Paula McCartneyho, kteří hráli na identické klavíry, na kterých napsali své rané hity. Piano tuningový kámoš Josepha Arthura dostal k ladění plnou kontrolu, nakonec toho musel udělat velmi málo, nebyla nutná žádná oprava. Bolo to jako z časové kapsle, piano už bylo ve svém věku, mělo však svůj osobitý charakter. S ničím nesrovnatelné. Žilo v Connecticutu pořád ve stejné rodině celé generace jako stálý artefakt a to navzdory sentimentální hodnotě. Nakonec to dopadlo takhle (a dovolil jsem si ponechat původní text): “Beyond all measure, though entirely impersonal to me, it had become a thing the family could no longer afford to deal with (as all things in this realm finally become.) And how unfortunate/fortunate for it to end up in an industrial garage space/studio off the coast of the waters of Red Hook, Brooklyn, where early in its new life it faced near devastation. It was only saved by friends who lifted it on cinder blocks when Sandy came to fuck us all. But it survived. We survived.”
♣•♦ “Joseph Arthur is a long–term disrupter and a challenger of the norms. He is possibly the most talented musician of the last twenty years in the US.” — Huffington Post
♣•♦ “His influences are plain enough — Dylan, Waits, Cobain — but by the end of the record, he sounds like nobody but himself; dark, lovelorn and clever.” — The Observer
♣•♦ Over the years, Joseph Arthur has been such a frequent guest at KEXP that we consider him family, so it’s no surprise to us he’s taken the idea as the theme of his latest album, The Family, on which he entwines fact and fiction to explore these universal ties. For Joseph, the new LP also represents something new and old. While it’s his thirteenth (or fourteenth, depending on how you count), The Family is the first he’s ever composed on a piano, one that has its own history. Says Jo: “I set out to make an album that centred about all of the aspects and all of the relationships of ‘The Family’. And how fitting that these songs should begin on that hundred–year–old Steinway that had only ever belonged to one family.” While the songs took seed on the keys, they’ve flourished on record into full–band compositions, featuring his well–orchestrated blend of folk–rock, psych–pop, soul and other sounds to highlight is distinctive vocals and terrific story telling.
♣•♦ “When I first heard Jo’s music, his lyrics jumped out at me. I love his words, love his music. It’s great to see some of his best written work assembled. His words rattle and rumble and prise open the cage.” — Peter Gabriel, musician © Photo credit: Ehud Lazin
Born: September 28, 1971, Akron, Ohio, United States
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Genre: Alternative Singer–Songwriter/ Avant–garde
Album release: June 3rd, 2016
Record Label: True North Records
01 The Family 4:41
02 Sister Dawn 4:32
03 With Your Life 2:46
04 They Called Him Lightning 5:05
05 When I Look at You 2:53
06 Wishing Well 5:33
07 Machines of War 5:16
08 Ethel Was Born 4:22
09 You Wear Me Cut 3:40
10 Hold on Jerry 4:07
11 You Keep Hanging On 4:40
12 The Flag 3:22
13 Daddy, The War Machine 3:53
Album Themes: Family Autumn Introspection Reflection
♦•♣ Joseph Arthur Composer, Drum Programming, Drums, Engineer, Guitar, Paintings, Photography, Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
♦•♣ Adam Ayan Mastering
♦•♣ Tchad Blake Mixing
♦•♣ Derek Edwards Design
♦•♣ Sheldon Gomberg Engineer
♦•♣ Merritt Jacob Engineer
♣ Joseph Arthur is a singer, songwriter, poet and artist from Akron, Ohio, known for his solo material and as a member of RNDM and Fistful of Mercy. Combining poetic lyrics with a layered sonic palette, Arthur has built his reputation over the years through critically acclaimed releases, collaborations and constant touring; his unique solo live performances often incorporate the use of a number of distortion and loop pedals, even live painting and a sprinkling of beat poetry.
♣ Originally discovered by Peter Gabriel, Arthur quickly established a reputation as a formidable and creative talent with his experimental folk rock style, diverse instrumentation and eclectic electronic production elements.
♣ Live, he pioneered the use of loop pedals and layered vocals years before
Ed Sheeran et al picked up on it. An accomplished painter, he s displayed his
works in galleries around the world, and his online only Museum of Modern
Arthur (museumofmodernarthur.com) serves as a repository for his creations.
♣ He is also a prolific writer, principally of poetry but has also written a children s book! His 20 plus albums range from solo records to collaborations with a who s who of rock n roll, including Lou Reed, Dhani Harrison and Ben Harper of Fistful of Mercy, Peter Gabriel, T Bone Burnett, and RNDM with Pearl Jam s Jeff Ament.
♦•♣ “This record evolved right around the time the piano made its way to Brooklyn. I’d had a random conversation (is anything random?) with a woman I judged to be into speed and pills (okay, by her own admission). She was telling me about her problems with her ex–husband hounding her about the kids. This inspired the song, “You Wear Me Out”, which became the catalyst for the concept of this record about family dynamics. I set out to make an album that centred about all of the aspects and all of the relationships of “The Family”. And how fitting that these songs should begin on that hundred–year–old Steinway that had only ever belonged to one family.
♦•♣ So the songs just came. One after the other. It felt like some dumb divine clockwork. Everything else I had, or was doing, went out the window and seemed tired and irrelevant. I hadn’t yet released “Boogie Christ”, but I dove into this passionately.
♦•♣ “The Family” story is mostly a work of fiction. This isn’t about my family. It’s about family.
♦•♣ I did interview my parents. I asked for stories — anything they could recall. I remember thinking how strange it was that I hadn’t really asked before, and also how relatively little they seemed to know. I think many modern American families operate like this. Off the top of my head, I don’t even know much about my heritages. I know that one of my grandfathers comes from Spain, and the other comes from Scotland. My grandmothers are mixes that I can’t recall, and so it goes. We blend. Our histories are lost or confused. This is no bad thing, mind you. It’s life and it’s great, and I’m all for it. We should blend. We should progress. But I digress…
♦•♣ I used facts from things my folks told me and then quickly fictionalized. Not as a rule, but because I wasn’t interested in creating a personal history, or telling a story that no one really knows. I utilize the personal to imbibe reality into the universal.
♦•♣ For example, when I refer to ‘sister’ in “Sister Dawn”, I’m not speaking about my sister, though I did use her actual name in the song, “The Family”. However, it was me who would climb up every tree. And that wasn’t in West Virginia, either. It was in Akron, Ohio. But we did go to Anmoore, West Virginia every summer and every Christmas, and we did play football there.
♦•♣ I incorporated actual names of people who meant something to me, and for whatever reason, never changed them. Perhaps I should have. But songwriters know that names hold weight and are hard to change.
♦•♣ The songs are sung from the perspective of different characters, both male and female, both child and adult, in different times in history. World War II factors in heavily to the story, but for me it was always just about war right now — the loss we all have right now. That’s why I let it surround the main story, which is the way family dynamics shape us and make us who we are.
♦•♣ “When I Look At You” is sung from the perspective of a mother looking at her son as she is dealing with losing her husband to the war. As a songwriter, there was great freedom to take myself far out of the equation. And yet the songs felt like these things had been waiting for me, waiting for me to get out. Maybe they were stored up in that piano. Or maybe writing from that thing that had threatened me most was really setting me free. The story is non–linear and abstract, and works to help make it less personal and more universal. (An aside: I asked Tchad Blake to sequence it. He has a peculiar talent for this, as well as for mixing. This album came alive not only through his mixes, but through his sequence and edits.)
♦•♣ “Wishing Well” is about going to the mall in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s; it was the only suburban destination for my best friend, Jeremy and me. We’d spend hours with stolen twenties, playing Asteroids or Pac–man, smoking menthol cigarettes I stole from my mom, and joints we got any other kind of way — and looking at that freaky well in the center of it all — the weird display of financial lunatic freedom, right in the middle of the celebration of capitalism that was wooing us to sleep through sticky treats and flashing lights. But at the mall we could make some wish, to what or who, I don’t know. But no one ever seemed to take that money (from the wishing well). And lets hope at least some of those wishes came true. I know mine did.
♦•♣ In West Virginia, you could see the highway from a tiny porch of this little house that had been destroyed. It only exists, like it only ever existed, up here in the spirit where everything is eternal and forgiven, and the complicated aspects that make us these remarkable things called humans. That’s what I was trying to document here. That’s the story I was trying to tell. Love and loss. Dysfunction and surrender. Hopelessness and abuse. And the thing that somehow allows us to transcend it all. To let the things that at one point impaired us, be the same things from which we develop, or like a blessing, get our strengths.
♦•♣ Nothing in this album comes from judgment. These are stories being told from different voices and mysterious times, which hopefully resonate with all the families everywhere.
♦•♣ The last song on the record, “Daddy, The War Machine”, is sung from the perspective of an innocent child, with his simplistic understanding of where his father went, and why – and then with the complexity of his loss and absence. Then the grown-up in him sings almost with defiance, or even as a challenge, with a boxer’s pose at the end. It is the loss endured and turned into fearlessness — a kind of punk rock exuberance inviting the reality of this war machine that is the nature of man. It’s a celebration of it all. An acceptance and a love letter. To life. And to all families, including mine.” — Joseph Arthur (http://www.josepharthur.com/)
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ***½
♦•♣ In 1991, the British literary quarterly Granta published the provocatively titled thematic issue The Family: They Fuck You Up, titled from a poem by Philip Larkin. Its contents include an early excerpt from Mikal Gilmore’s memoir Shot in the Heart, about his Mormon family and enduring the pain caused by his infamous brother Gary (executed for murder in 1977); William Wharton’s harrowing revelation of losing family members to a multiple car accident; Sappho Durrell on her father, author Lawrence, and personal reflections from Mona Simpson, Harold Pinter, and others. The connection between it and restless songwriter Joseph Arthur’s shambling, conceptual album The Family is tenuous, but there. It’s not that Granta influenced him, but that the stories he relates here extract some of the same truths, and more importantly, diverge from them.
♦•♣ The Family’s origins date to 2013, before he released Ballad of Boogie Christ. Arthur purchased a 1912 Steinway Vertegrande piano that had been owned by a single family, and he wrote these songs on it. His liner essay reveals that until now his relationship to the piano was an ambivalent one, but it provided him a gateway to music. Arthur plays and sings everything here; Tchad Blake mixed and sequenced it. ♦•♣ This record is messy, musically, sonically, and emotionally, and unapologetically indulgent. The narrative thread connecting these songs about family dynamics is overarching but Arthur never overreaches. The songs are peopled with characters both fictional and real. Names are sometimes changed; sometimes not. Themes of loss, dysfunction, forgiveness, surrender, boredom, sorrow, irritation, and difficult love intertwine throughout. In “They Call Him Lightning,” a raw loop and primitive snare ride rough through stinging, bluesy guitars and elegiac piano to frame a story line from WWII. A number of tracks — “Machines of War,” “The Flag,” “Daddy, The War Machine” — reflect on war and its impact on family. “Ethel Was Born” dates to the era of the Titanic and details the psychological aftermath of a father's suicide. “You Keep Hanging On” is a slippery, wrenching, lo–fi rock ballad that portrays a desperate love that endures even when it shouldn’t. The colorful, punchy “Sister Dawn,” dressed in ragged pop, is both homage and warning to a sibling not to raise her own children the way she was raised. The off–kilter pop in “You Wear Me Out” recounts, via rambling piano and reverbed guitars, a speed freak complaining about a husband who nags her about “the kids.” The refrain in the skittering new wave–ish anthem “Hold On Jerry” stands in stark juxtaposition to its hook–laden arrangement: “This love is complicated/This death is overrated….” The Family isn’t a grand statement, but an intimate one. Despite the dark threads that run through it and bind it, this collection is as moving as it is harrowing, as tender as it is tenacious. It’s an album Arthur had to make, and as such is completely redemptive. Label: http://www.truenorthrecords.com/♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣♦•♣
|Joseph Arthur — The Family (June 3rd, 2016)|