NEW MOTHER | Review...most anything Michael Gira is involved in immobilizes me with despair. I can be a real putz when it comes to music - allowing my emotions to be shoved around willy-nilly in any direction, entirely dependent upon what happens to be on the stereo at any given moment Andy Dimes and His Magic Organ always picks me up. And most anything Michael Gira is involved in immobilizes me with despair.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. I spend so much time plumbing the depths anyway that anything that makes my job a little easier is a strange and welcome relief. Gira's latest post-Swans project is no exception. Unlike the Body Lovers, which concentrated on sweeping, rich soundscapes with only brief and rare vocal Intrusions, or the Body Haters, which was like listening to a rusty steel garage door scraping across a parking lot for an hour, the Angels of Light finds Gira returning to your basic three-minute "pop" song formula, "with real musicians, choruses, the whole lot, much like Swans did on their remarkable Burning World.
Now, given that it's a Gira project, these numbers won't exactly set your toes to tap-ping. They're bleak and hopeless - and slow and quiet, each song a soul-shredder. Midsong in "Shame," for example, Gira starts chanting - shame...shame...shame..." In a way that's bound to leave even the most blameless and pure at heart feeling penitent for something. It's a very Catholic album in that way - most of the lyrics (as they always have. I guess) revolve around Gira's feelings of guilt - especially his guilt for being an evil man. The song "Real Person" even opens with the line, "Yes, I'm addicted to guilt..."
In a recent interview, Gira stated that a number of songs on the album are not personal at all, but rather homages to various artists - "Inner Female" about Francis Bacon, "The Garden Hides the Jewel" about Duchamp, etc. - but to be honest, while not denying his claims - I'm in no place to do that - 1 find it hard to see, even knowing a bit about the artists in question. They still sound like your basic Michael Gira songs.
One reference on the album I've never heard Gira mention - and It's one I've heard on his records before - is Popol Vuh's Noskratu sound track. There was a long passage on the Body Lovers album that sound-ed awfully familiar - and here, on New Mother, it seems to crop up twice - at the beginning of "The Garden Hides the Jewel" and, more explicitly, at the beginning of the title track.
To be honest, there's not much new here. Gira's first solo outing from several years ago Drainland, was full of surprises. He ' a variety of styles, using found sounds and noise, and personal tapes and various musicians to create a sometimes grating, sometimes lovely collection of songs. Here, however everything pretty much sounds alike. That doesn't mean it's a bad album. In fact, I've found myself quite hooked on it lately. Unfortunately, by getting hooked on an album that's so relentlessly and determinedly grim, every time I put it on it's like having my guts slowly scraped out with a shovel.