Love Is Simple | RevewAkron/Family's best material can be found here. Their varied musical proclivities mingle with one another effortlessly; their songwriting is stellar and their performances even better. Their most outstanding record is this one and it's a cycle dedicated to the only mystery on equal footing with death: love.
The hippies never got it right. They stewed in a cesspool of confused sexuality and proclaimed (free) love the monument of and cure for the woes of human existence. To make matters worse a great deal of uninteresting music was spawned in the interest of spreading this amorous gospel and the whole mess thus became the object of many corporate attempts at recapturing an imagined liberty, attempts to which we are all now subjected in recycled form. Akron/Family scared me the second I saw the title of their newest album, but then I heard it and I felt it and I internalized it and damn it, it feels great.
The group has utilized every available means to sing their ode to this great and mysterious force so I won't bother with the laundry list of instruments, studio trickery, and oddball wizardry employed to bring the whole thing to life. This is an album that seeps into the skin, moves the muscles, animates the bones, and opens up a wellspring deep in the soul all in the name of joyous celebration and near Dionysian frenzy; only the orgiastic quality isn't something you share with three of your buddies and their partners in a feast of the flesh.
It all starts with one of the oldest bits of advice on record: "Love, love, love everyone." Go ahead and let that sink in. In its brightest and truest form that maxim is still radical: love your family, love your neighbors, love your brothers and sisters, love your enemies, love the people that love you, and most importantly love the ones that don't return the favor. It's easy to see it as a simple statement, as a suggestion that means something like, "Help others out, don't do anything bad to them, and maybe take their trash out once in awhile if their old and in need of help." Luckily the band doesn't treat it that way and after the brief introduction of "Love, Love, Love (Everyone)" ends, the band kicks into some super-hyper-stellar-warp-ludicrous-speed overdrive and ascends Diotima's ladder right into the realm of truth, beauty, and the forms. "Ed Is a Portal" is where the album begins to fly. I don't know who Ed is, what he is a portal to, or if it is even proper to give him a gender like I am, but the portal of the title is a transcendent one that eliminates all prejudices and lifts the listener up to some abstract portrait of the universe and all its places as a manifestation of love. It is a circle of hollered rhythms, pulsing drums, buzzing guitar, and ascending chants that performs the function of a guru teaching the student how to eliminate the self. It's a hymn to the world we are all occupying; it is suitably epic and propulsive, spilling over with plenty and covering the room with its unceasing energy.
The album reaches dizzying heights in no more than a few minutes. It seems impossible that the band could follow this song with an entire album worthy of its power. "Don't Be Afraid, You're Already Dead" brings Love Is Simple out of the stratosphere right back to earth with a simple guitar melody and a classic rhythm that gallops along with ease. We have seen the image of beauty and love and now it's back to real life and the mundane. The album proceeds to search out different locations, ideas, and feelings by bringing together just about every musical style the band's covered... and then some. There are moments where all the chanting and singing is covered in a thick dust of noise and intensity, other moments where the music relaxes into a zen-like hum, and still other moments where traditional musical references stand side by side with strange meditative mantras and psychedelic meandering. Instead of narrowing their album into an overly refined concept record, Akron/Family let their imaginations fly and in the process capture a whole host of moments that emphasize all the passion, frenzy, comfort, and knowledge associated with a deep love or friendship.
As the album draws to its end an unusual satisfaction settles into my mind and I find that I'm happier, maybe even rested from the bang and crash that has been the previous hour of music. After all the drama, strange twists and turns, and humorous blitzkriegs, the music turns out to be a blissful therapy. Amongst the strange sounds, unpredictable shifts, and manic tempo bursts there lies a softly beating heart and it is slowly pumping out each lovely sound and each incondensable expression with a steady and reasoned hand. Akron/Family are a careful band that wield chaos like any other instrument, but on this album their song writing and keen ear for tension and progression shines through most obviously. By the end of the album you may or may not believe that love really is simple, but there will be little doubt that it is the force behind this group's music. This is not some lame love, some purely physical expression, it is a deep-seated, fully felt entity holding them and their music together. As a result it pours back out of them with beautiful results.