Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home

EVILSPONGE.ORG | by Kharybdis

The music requires your attention. It seizes it, and doesn’t let go

When I sat down 2 months ago (Brendan’s 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 what’s important is that I’m familiar with the man’s work. I’ve 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 Gira’s 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 couldn’t pick up a pen/pencil/keyboard/etc. and just start writing because I couldn’t 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 can’t write while listening to this album. The music requires your attention. It seizes it, and doesn’t let go.

There’s 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 Souls’ Rising, What Will Come, and What You Were). The differences between the versions of these tracks echo the differences between most of Gira’s live work and his studio work. Gira’s 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 Gira’s 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. Gira’s voice isn’t as intimate as on the live version, though.

All Souls’ Rising is one of the most compelling things Angels of Light has done to date. It’s 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 Light’s most powerful.

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 Gira’s standards, clamored for at every show.

The other tracks on Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home illustrate the range of Gira’s musical style. Sunset Park and Wedding are hypnotic, layered hymns while Rose of Los Angeles (one of the album’s absolutely stellar tracks) spins maniacally out of control like a 1930’s 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 (“Where is the girl that once lived in you?”). 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 she’s doing is “counting the time, filling the glass.”

And Kosinsky, the album’s third track… I just want to close my eyes and float away on this song. It’s possibly the most beautiful melody Gira has ever shared with his listeners.

Gira’s 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 Gira’s 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 can’t say I disagree with him.