Small Town Boredom – Notes from the Infirmary
Artists thrive on emotional extremes, moments of unprecedented joy or crushing sadness. It is easier to transcribe these feelings into music. Middle grounds are much too complicated to address with music, the confusion, the mood swings come fast and what would seem like a perfect fit with one’s emotions at one point make no sense after a few minutes. They lack clarity. Melancholy drenched songs in particular seem to connect better with the receivers of music than their happier counterparts. Steven Wilson, mastermind behind Progressive rock group Porcupine Tree, once introduced one of their saddest songs “Stop Swimming” by saying “this next song is a very sad song, but if you’re like me, you’ll find that the saddest songs are also the most beautiful”. I find this to hold true.
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If we extrapolate that notion of sadness and beauty and address Small Town Boredom’s sophomore album, we would find that this album oozes all forms of beauty. With a sound echoing that of early nineties bands like Codeine and Low, they are able to produce an honest and very well written album that would please all those yearning for a good dose of catharsis. Why catharsis in particular? Well isn’t the main reason people enjoy melancholy inclined forms of art the fact they get to purge themselves from these emotions vicariously, without having to endure these feelings themselves. A chance to get in touch with something that they fear having happen to them in their daily lives but have a concealed attraction to them nonetheless. We hear songs about loss, tragedies and misfortune because it’s almost human nature to feel an attraction to all of these feelings. It makes us more human in the sense that we get to discover a different aspect that we like to keep hidden from the world and expose our vulnerabilities and enjoy that exposure.
Mainstream media propagates the idea of the “Macho” man, the alpha male, and all that nonsense. It has become some sort of taboo for men to cry or feel vulnerable or compassionate. Feminism leads women to think that they should become rigid creatures, to hide their inherent emotions so that they become equals to the macho image of men. Notes from the Infirmary contradicts these schools of thought, and accepts the human form with all its weaknesses and imperfections.
Described by the band as an album to listen to on the morning after a night of drinking in solitude, “the harsh, sobering morning after, a life now in reins, a record full of regret, disappointment & broken faith. It is definitely a different musical prospect when compared to the music normally covered on the pages of Fluid Radio. The reason for that being that the album revolves around the vocals and lyrics sung. That of course doesn’t mean that the music takes a back seat, not at all. The music is somber acoustic guitar lines with varying elements entering the mix every now and then. A guitar melody here or a piano there, but all is done tastefully, and without intruding too much or taking the spotlight from the vocals. They are done to accent the lyrics, and they succeed in doing so.
Album opener “Song for Mathew Leonard” starts off with a sparse guitar line playing in the background to the mournfully sung vocal line and it keeps that mood going until they declare that “Now that Mathew’s gone, I just have to hold on” and a guitar solo enters to end the song on that note. The next track “White Cart Water” is the only instrumental track on the record and flows like a track by Norwegian lofi band, and the hugely underrated, Monopot which gives way to “Black Cart Ways” which progresses in the same manner as their first track did. Pressing on their feelings of languish and aching the listener even more.
The only moment in the album where the listener gets some sort of release is seen in the penultimate track “World’s Most Unwanted”, which talks of the inability to find peace and introduces a huge wall of yells and distorted guitars that bury the main piano line deep underneath. However, the piano line remains audible as if to remind the listener of what caused this turmoil. This is not a purposeless yell, it came from somewhere deep inside and it has been building up throughout the preceding five songs.
At only thirty minutes long, Notes from the Infirmary, is a rather short record and one really wishes it would have lasted a bit longer. A feeling echoed by the band in the last track in which they tell the audience “I never wanted this to end”, but it ends, and it leaves the listener in a state of contemplation. Reflecting back on the album makes one feel thankful for the tiniest things in his/her life, even the sad bits, because at the end these little things are what make life worth living. An excellent album.