Saturday, November 06, 2010

Banner Pilot's "Collapser"

Let me get this out of the way up front: I'm not typically a lyric listener. That's my sweetie's deal. I actually lost the facility of being able to remember song lyrics around 1973, as a result of which I'm able to remember songs I didn't even like from back then but am generally clueless to the words of most songs I've heard since then.

But when I got this rekkid (on sweet, sweet vinyl) after streaming all the tracks online and slit the shrinkwrap, a lyric sheet fell out on the floor and being the enthusiast of The Romance of the Artifact that I am, I sat down and read it while spinning the album -- three times in a row.

I don't know a lot about this band in the biographical sense. They're a four-piece from Minneapolis. Nate Gangelhoff, the bassplayer, is the main songwriter. Their music reminds me a lot of one of my friend Matt's several bands, Goodwin, but then again, it also reminds me a little bit of all those fuckin' pop-punk bands with numbers in their names (the one from Arlington was called 41 Gorgeous Blocks after a line from The Catcher in the Rye and was actually pretty good). Not to mention (and I gotta mention) the 'Mats and Huskers.

Nick Johnson, the singer/guitarist, writes all the lyrics, and he's good. All of his songs have basically the same premise. See, there's this kid, say in his early 20s, and he hates his midwestern town, hates his job, drinks too much, tries to get close with women but always fucks things up or runs away. He tries to capture fleeting moments when he feels connected, but he knows how ephemeral they are. He doesn't like where he is, but he knows he's stuck there. It's a classic rock 'n' roll scenario, going back at least as far as Eddie Cochran, or the Who, but here's the thing: The kid is really articulate. He reads fucking John Fante, for Christ's sake (the Italo-American proto-Bukowski, for those of you who just joined us).

Banner Pilot's chord progressions and melodies are as circumscribed by their genre as any blues or jazz band's are, and that's fine. They give Johnson the medium and the momentum he needs to get his message across, and he's got a lot on his mind, even though he claims, "I'm no writer/Just bad rhymes and some confused sentiment."

Dig: Cat spews more syllables than anybody since Brooce recited the Manhattan phone directory on Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. He's so verbose that he's got to phrase around beats, but his word-torrent signifies. Basically, the songs on Collapser encapsulate that Quadrophenia/SLC Punk moment when your peer group has taken you as far as it's going to, and you're poised on the cusp of becoming your own person -- scary plunge into the unknown. Johnson's kid aches and because you know him or you've lived his story, you ache too. The stories resonate because they're true, and the music gives you something to bounce around to and maybe shed some of that emotional tension while you're listening to him unload his head. It's catharsis in the best sense.


Blogger Fast Film said...

I'm not a lyrics kinda gal myself, responding far more to overall sound, passion and delivery, but these two are exceptional. The former is by Chris Difford of Squeeze, so I'm not surprised at its excellence. The latter was written by a clever, famed television writer/producer trying out a Walter Mitty-esque persona of musical librettist and composer, superbly at that (watch the whole episode some time: "Once More with Feeling," Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All its songs are in different styles, tailored to each actor's abilities.) best lyrics I've heard in decades great transposition of plot specifics to universal meaning, in the same manner that King's X effortlessly makes lyrics of the sacred sound profanely secular as well.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Fast Film said...

I expanded.

10:00 AM  

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