Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let's hear it for the boys

Green and blue stripes

Heavy Hearts - The Morning Benders

I Was Wrong - The Morning Benders

Weezer and I were never really friends. We overlapped a bit in L.A. and sometimes we attended the same parties. But truthfully? They were kind of the lame parties, the parties I went to when I had nothing better to do that evening than wash my hair. One time I was standing in a group of people and Weezer told a pretty good joke. Everyone laughed appreciatively. I think I might have laughed the loudest. At that moment, I thought Weezer was kind of cute. Encouraged by this unexpected success, Weezer told another joke, one that wasn't very funny. This time we laughed politely. Weezer didn't take the hint. Weezer kept telling bad jokes. It was a long night.

I was once friends with The Strokes. To clarify: I had an affair with The Strokes. A brief affair. Alright, alright, it was a one night stand. But The Strokes were really nice in the morning; they made me eggs. And it was worth it--it really was--because The Strokes were so sexy. And every girl needs that before she settles down. Would I have liked The Strokes to call me the next day? Or the day after that? Sure. Should I have just picked up the phone and called The Strokes? Maybe. Whatevs, ancient history.

I only bring this stuff up because I met this new band the other day that reminds me of those guys. Like Weezer, The Morning Benders are from California (though Northern California, and as anyone who's lived in Cali can tell you, SoCal and NoCal might as well be different countries, let alone states). And like Weezer they're super melodic and extra sincere and have this amazing instinct for the unexpected emotional appeal, the blow to the gut you sort of see coming but are still totally surprised when it actually wallops you. You find it two-thirds of the way through "Heavy Hearts" when the drums kick in and the back-ups are moaning "ohh-ooo, ohh-ooo," and reflexively you're responding, "aww-aww, aww-aww." And then in "I Was Wrong," they remind me of The Strokes--the way they draw out words, languid-like, and how the lead guitar wanders, but only far enough to draw the perimeters of the song nice and neat

I've been disappointed before, but I'm cautiously optimistic about these Morning Benders. In fact, I can't help but think that if Weezer and The Strokes and a bunch of other boys with guitars who blew up big, releasing on major labels and believing their own press, had simply taken The Morning Benders' route with their follow-ups--stripped things down, returned to basics, remembered what it was like playing to a few friends in a practice room, possibly trying to catch the eye of that one girl standing in the corner--we'd still have a relationship.

Buy The Morning Benders' Loose Change EP at their Web Site (also, they have a very cute t-shirt with a hot air balloon on it.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Let's hear it for the girl

Pink and polka dots

Only In My Dreams - Debbie Gibson

My back's against a wall and I can see the glint in your eye and broken bottle in your hand. I'll talk fast.

First, Debbie Gibson wrote and produced her own music. Did you know that? I'm learning as I wend my way through this, in the annals of bubblegum girl pop, self-actualizing ladies occupy a couple sentences, a paragraph at most. And did you realize "Dreams" is kind of a sad song, a song about foolishness and delusion and regret? You'd be forgiven if you didn't. I mean if you thought about it, sure: love, only in my dreams. Yet from the opening reel and smack to the bumpin' bass to those yummy sugar-spun synth lines, this song celebrates, celebrates, carefree American teenhood. (The video, with its multiple shots of a rumple-sheeted white bed and Debbie's coy, guarded expressions, is somewhat more complicated.) Granted, I was an American teen when "Dreams" was released, so I'm reading it with nostalgic lenses, falling for the fantasy. Even though I'm not too old to remember how care-full that time is. But isn't that what ear candy is about? A suspension of disbelief, temporary insanity? And if the cool kids are going to celebrate the Scandinavian Annies, Robyns, Marits, Fridas, the wholesome homegrown Kellys, markedly not-wholesome Christinas, and all the slick London gals, isn't it time to start rejuvenating Miss Gibson's hits (this one, anyway) and restoring them to the lineage? Really, I shouldn't have to argue the awesomeness of that chorus or explain how a verse that, if anything, bests it, is a flat-out achievement. Should I?

From Greatest Hits (US, UK).

BTW, Debbie goes by Deborah these days.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pick a lucky number

To The Races - Eric Bachmann

Genie, Genie - Eric Bachmann

Liars and Thieves - Eric Bachmann

Eric Bachmann is a big man, not just tall, but broad shouldered, substantial. And there's a gravity to his features. From his strong, straight nose, thin lips held tight and hairline that was high even before it finally receded, Bachmann was born to brood. Among 90s indie rock frontmen, he was distinguished by his seriousness. Pavement was witty, Built to Spill clever, Guided By Voices playful, Superchunk flat-out fun. And Archers of Loaf, for all its nimble turn of phrase, was ... intense. Oh, and really fucking loud.

Bachmann, in his Crooked Fingers stage, could come across as a bull in the proverbial china shop, or, more to the point, an aggrieved punk in a good-vibes, ganja-soft coffeehouse, his hybrid folk-pop too vehement in its mirthlessness. His thick tongue poised to shout and spit but finding that the context dictated a more conciliatory tone. Sad bastards are one thing, but humor, even if it's gallows humor, goes a long way to lighten the mood. And because Bachmann couldn't tell a joke to save his life, he has occasionally erred on the side of the inappropriately florid. That said, Crooked Fingers owns some of the best three- to four-minute spans of the double oughts, songs like "New Drink For The Old Drunk," "Devils Train," "Angelina" and an austere cover of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" that I only heard six months ago but has been my favorite cover of anything anywhere since.

Solitude is a defining theme for Bachmann, so it's only right he should foresake the band apparatus and record and release his new full-length To The Races (US, UK) as a solo effort. It's an appropriately lonely album of finger-picked, rocking chair rhythms and cracks Bachmann might have caulked with noise but instead leaves alone to branch on the bare walls of his spartan structure. The adornments that do creep onto the record are well-chosen. Tim Hagerman's (Devotchka) violin ripples over "Home" like wind on still water, and piano lines in "Liars and Thieves" lend ballast to wobbly heart cries. If on Crooked Fingers records Bachmann often sounds like he's prying words from a locked jaw, his singing on Races is fluid as never before. "Genie, Genie's" tale tumbles out at a rollicking pace:

Pick a lucky number but the numbers lie
So I'm rubbing every bottle I can get my hands on.

Genie, Genie come on out.
Won't you help poor daddy out.
Give me something, I'm looking for something.

You could almost call it jaunty if it weren't about a man looking for hope in a bottle, so low he'll accept any prize--money, a woman, a car, drugs--that might confirm his own continuing existence. Press releases accompanying this record explain that Bachmann wrote the songs while living out of his van, by choice. He's probably getting a little old for that. Even though he sings about the lives of the abject, the very unlucky, the crushed and the smashed and the can't-get-ups and does it exceptionally well, I've never gotten the feeling he's one of them. He's solid like that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Busy. Tired. Lazy. So, some links:

Jon and I contributed tracks and intros to Can You See The Sunset From The Southside's Chicago-themed podcast. As always, Eric did a fantastic job (plus he has a really cool voice). So you should download it now. It may give you some insight into the pop girl/punk boy dichotomy round here.

Joe Clay, who's been running things of late at Spoilt Victorian Child has gone and started his own blog, The White Noise Revisited. If he continues to write stuff like this, it's going to be brilliant.

Popsheep has a lovely post on rivers, lakes, dams and creeks. Oh, and Woody Guthrie.

I've watched this like 100 times over the past week and still think it's hilarious.

Ok, and a song I can't stop listening to.

White Sunshine - Murder Beach

Words like plucky and brave and images of chins jutting forward and hands planted on hips come to mind. Even though that doesn't make any sense, because that's how you'd describe a Bobbsey Twin or one of Enid Blyton's child detectives or something.

Monday, August 21, 2006

An email to a friend

Hey Am:

I got the
Wire DVD in the mail this weekend. Glad you liked it. It's remarkable for a bunch of reasons, but the transformations undergone by the songs that'd eventually end up on 154 amaze on every viewing. It's not that skeletons of songs become fleshed-out bodies during recording, and it's not lead becomes gold either. So subtle it's hard to put a finger on it really, but the best I can do is the rendering of plants and oils into perfume. The more I listen, the more I think those guys were every bit the equal of anyone, the saints in relief in the eaves of the church included. I keep trying to punch holes in this opinion and the awl keeps bouncing back.

So, anyway, I know I said I'd write something for SYF about
the Pipettes, who, by the way, I can't believe you don't adore. If any band has lived up to your "fuck meaning, let's dance" motto, it's them (or maybe I'm being fooled). And they get that dancing-as-sublimated-sex and actual sex-as different but equally relevant pleasures thing exactly right. You just don't see that done well very often, even in this era of dancin'-punk revival (and maybe that's why I don't find much of it particularly compelling). As much I'd like to do a full deal on them, our peers seem to have fully digested these Pipettes (especially that link you sent from cokemachineglow). In that, Newell calls out the Svengali thing they seem almost too eager to evoke with the Phil Spector name drops and the anonymous male Cassettes toiling in the background. He also gets at the girl-on-girl undertones in "Judy"... since my girl-group is so bad, I don't know if that's an evocation of a long history of side-glancing girl-love songs or if it's the Pipettes being oddlly and somewhat uncomfortably coy. Those were both of my barrels and people have had that to ponder for more than a month already.

But, as you are a captive audience, I can't help but share some other stuff that floats through my head.

1) You asked me what I thought was punk about them. I'm not sure what the budget for We Are the Pipettes was, but it either has, or was crafted to feel like it had, a homemade feel. Pocket symphonies, yes, but the singers and orchestra didn't have time to get the perfect take. You can't make a punk album this lush and worked over, but a) the technical imperfections and b) the duality of the traditionally innocent girl-group surface with against-type content aren't so dissimilar from some of the things Wire were trying to do. There's some punk throughline there.

2) The eMusic review brings up Heavenly as a touchstone, which I think has some merit. The Decline and Fall of Heavenly is chock full of love for the same source material the Pipettes are working from. Such a great album, that. But I doubt Heavenly is source material itself. Too bitter. The lyrical big sister I hear is Justine Frischmann, "Stutter" specifically.

Skipjack - Heavenly

Itchy Chin - Heavenly

Stutter - Elastica

3) The intro of a song called "Sex" quoting the oh-so-quoted start of "Be My Baby" (and thus "Just Like Honey" and countless others) as if to say: "Ok, we're finally getting down to brass tacks here." So much fun.

4) In terms of a sort of amateurish-ness heightening the intensity of highly performative music (which seems like a contradiction but ain't), I can't help but think of what's going on in Haut Bas Fragile. The Rosenbaum piece really hits its stride in the latter portion. I know you thumb your nose at him, but there's gold half way through: "... what Rivette has that his American critical and directorial counterparts often lack is a poetic and abstract appreciation of what that [technical and musical expertise] yields and what that glory consists of, especially in relation to everyday life--an appreciation of the dialectic between reality and fantasy... " The Pipettes are definitely dancing all over this reality v. fantasy thing but I've yet to make out the exact step. Fun to think about, tho. And the relationship of these appealing "amateur" acts to karoke is a topic for discussion when we get together for a beer some time.

5) A pure lark: Is the protagonist of "Don't Mug Yourself" sweating over Ms. "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me"? One a reaction to the other?

So, that's what I got. Obviously not interesting enough for a post, but at least you know I tried. Maybe I'll get around to that Elliott Smith/Sinead O'Connor thing one of these days. That should only take me a year or so to write.


PS: Thanks for the Towers of London. Really, has something passed us by?

Sunday, August 20, 2006



Rock n' roll's about the strong emotions: love and lust and anger and heartbreak and euphoria manifesting themselves as rebellion, sex, dancing, drinking, suicide attempts, fistfights, breaking windows ... well, you know the rest. So what do you call and what do you do with songs that are about ambiguous, emotional halfway houses--states described, famously, by Lou Reed as "alright," by others as "okay" or "fine." Not checkpoints of surrender or crossroads at which resigned weariness is finally admitted exactly, but moments of accepting the "right now" for what it is and only discussing the future in vague, indefinite terms. Liminal states? Purgatory? Mental repose?

I Should Be Sleeping - Mazarin

Whatever they are, Mazarin seems to be making a career of articulating these acceptable moods. It does this through a dynamic wall of sound--Quentin Stoltzfus' gentle, anesthetic voice and spectral bell and chime effects jostling up against intense drum rolls and buzzsawing electric or fast-strummed acoustic guitars--and cryptic, subconscious-trawling lyrics. On its most recent record We're Already There (my second favorite album of 2005), "I'm With You And Constellations" is a Ride-reminiscent churner that arrives at the profound realization (and it is profound), "I'm with you and we're okay." "I Should Be Sleeping," from the 2000 record Watch It Happen (eMusic), reaches a similar conclusion. A dreamy affair with bells that seem to bleed from other worlds (or at least the opposite side of the magnetic tape), its pivotal line is "it's all fine that I should be sleeping," as nettlesome calls to action or resolution are put aside for other days.

Target - The Rhombus

San Francisco singer-songwriter Cody Henessy (operating as The Rhombus) describes fuzzy stasis of a post-breakup variety. "Target" uses the hopeless mantra ("You know I'll try to fill my nights, I'll try") to frame trips to Target to buy new towels and to San Jose to rent a bike, then riding it "out of spite." But eventually the protagonist arrives at this kinda clunky, but apt metaphor for acceptance: "It's like swallowing some ice, it's got to melt inside your throat before it goes down." And if the words don't quite communicate the okay state he's reached, the cantering bedroom symphony chorus and cool glass of water that closes the track tells you everything's just fine. Really.

From Margins.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers

If Words Are Dead (a soon-to-be-released album from Portland duo Horse Feathers) were a room, it would be neat and uncluttered, but not cold. No, not cold. Generous with faded primary colors and a miscellany of patterns--stripes and checks and small-scale florals--its furniture would be a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs and lucky finds and at least one piece new-bought, given pride of place opposite the single window.

If it were a person, it would be my favorite kind of person. Smart and sharp and opinionated, witty and candid and earthy and able to tell a dirty joke well. But also modest and secretly shy and a little sad, though you don’t perhaps know why.

If it were a poem, it would be one of Emily Dickinson’s, tucking its hurt in the interstices of spare, telegraphic lines, stashing its cautious joy in understated acoustic guitar and banjo and pretty strings that sing of vast worlds of the unseen and unsung.

At the risk of making extravagant claims on behalf of something that would likely never make such claims for itself, Words Are Dead (due September 26 from Lucky Madison, see also Amazon) is one of the best albums this year. And because my own recommendation is rather feeble, know that Said The Gramophone and Aquarium Drunkard also posted songs from it just this morning. (And yes, normally that would stop me from posting something, but if I can get a few more people interested in the record, it's worth looking pathetically me-too-ish.)

Falling Through The Roof - Horse Feathers

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bought low and sold for less

Pawn Shop, Wendover, UT - Don Baccus
Pawn Shop, Don Baccus

Pawn Shop On Fire - The Wingdale Community Singers

"Pawn Shop On Fire" makes me think of that dry, curious phrase much beloved of police spokespeople and community newspapers, "neighborhood incident." With its cynical veneer of neutrality, neighborhood incident brackets everything from aborted petty theft to domestic violence to something that happened last week here in Chicago: A driver unintentionally hit a girl and a group of witnesses pulled him from his car and beat him half to death. That's a classic neighborhood incident, involving, as it did, afternoon heat, idleness, (likely) long-simmering rage, (almost certainly) booze and broad community participation. "Fire" isn't so current--the song has a Depression-era New York outer borough vibe--but it's got the bodies and buildings packed tense and tight and those augers of minor pathos: money trouble, drunk husbands, wives at wits' end. It's performed so artlessly, as if for a church talent show, you might think these Wingdale Community Singers are jus' folks and not, in fact, David Grubbs, Hannah Marcus and Rick Moody. In a moving, authentic execution, Marcus sings solid and solemn; Moody backs her in flat, moaning harmony. It's a heart twister.

From The Wingdale Community Singers (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic)

Cash America Pawn - Alina Simone

If "Fire" sketches the big city as blustery but parochial, "Cash America Pawn," draws the small town as a long vista of listless, shambling, silent sorrow. (Incidents, yes. But little neighborhood.) Alina Simone--sounding like a more lucid Chan Marshall--details the topography. The titular pawn shop, lonely park, church spire, car broken down on the access road. Lest her recitation become too narcotic, the song has an amazing midpoint frisson, a series of brittle handclaps that cut through choppy guitar strum and say, Listen, listen here! This too is important.

From Prettier In The Dark (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Charmed life

Isobel Campbell

There Was Magic, Then... - The Gentle Waves

To Salt A Scar - The Gentle Waves

Song For Baby - Isobel Campbell

As a vocalist, Isobel Campbell isn't notable for her range, novelty or potency--just plain old charm, and a wan-faced, flagging, late afternoon cafe charm at that. She sings like the kind of girl always asking (sweetly, of course) her more energy-blessed compatriots to fetch glasses of water or pick up her dry cleaning. (And they're happy to do it.) The kind of girl who, in an early Modernist novel, might have reclined in deck chairs with lap blankets tucked tightly around her, smiling beatifically, malady unspecified, death cooling its heels just beyond the bend. (If you're familiar with these narratives, you know that death perversely picks off the horse-healthy first.)

Belle & Sebastian probably didn't make enough of Campbell's thin purr, and with her own projects (recorded under The Gentle Waves, her own name, and most recently with Mark Lanegan) she preens like a neglected kitten startled but pleased to be receiving attention. Which means she's a little awkward, often a half step behind the beat and not particularly skilled at adjusting elaborate arrangements to her vocal limitations. A song like "There Was Magic, Then..." from Gentle Waves' second record Swansong For You (
US, UK) is an absurdly plush, full-string-section number against which by all rights a sumptuary tax should be levied. In parts, the song suits her--particularly the lone Hungarian-sounding violin that introduces sepia-tinged words like "When I was a girl, I dreamt of dancing/I dreamt of many things that I could own." But as a gorgeous, drunken orchestra swells and swells and swells, Campbell half drowns in the mix, subsumed in its musical brocades and mohair velvets. And you can't help but wonder if her voice is better suited to some of the less ambitious songs on The Gentle Waves' first album, The Green Fields of Foreverland (US, UK). "To Salt A Scar," for example, is a relatively austere--and specific--track that goes somewhere musically instead of wallowing in vague prettiness.

Preceding critical reservations aside, there's something in Campbell that's undeniably effective and affecting. And I think it boils down to a factor as simple, and as difficult, as good songwriting. A trained cellist and a musical polymath, her classical, jazz and Latin ideas are as deftly executed and believable as her pop exercises. "Song For Baby" from Amorino (
US, UK) offers a sophisticated bossa nova swing, lilting melody and just the right kinds of pacing, tensions and interludes. There's nothing accidental or amateur about it, making Campbell's little girl lost persona an interesting conceit, but a conceit all the same.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tiny lights

Fairy Lights, Mike Golding
Tiny Lights, Mike Golding

The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer - Piano Magic

I won't attempt to catalogue the myriad tiny wonders of this song. I wouldn't know where to start and when to stop. Instead, allow me to direct you to just one winking bulb in a string of sparkly fairy lights. Here, starting at 1:26, a small spit of hi-hat, a tamped sizzle on the down beat. Almost insignificant, it rides a wave of low frequency drone, nods shyly to the toms, winks at the rippling guitar, smiles at the soupy keys. A passenger, yet a driver.

All Music does a nice job of relating Piano Magic's knotty history. From Seasonally Affective: A Piano Magic Retrospective, 1996-2000 (eMusic).

Daughters - Golden Shoulders

"Daughters" has a neat, trim piano motif you could build a song around. Which Golden Shoulders has done and well. I haven't lived with a piano for ages, but with six or seven years of lessons lodged in my physical memory--my wrists and arms, back and shoulders--my instinct when listening to a song like this is to cradle keys in the palms of my hands as it rocks forward, inching by short, measured bursts. Yes, it's physical like that.

The first 15 seconds or so will, inevitably, make you think of Spoon (certainly a physical band, though more in the hips than torso). The comparison may only be superficial, though. Singer Adam Kline is a storyteller smiling through his teeth, his medium lending itself to his message. Which is? Whatever you wish. Though I may be getting too old for it, I'll take the evergreen theme of rejecting authority.

From KIN (Welcome Home Records, iTunes).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Don't let our youth go to waste

Luna live

Bonnie and Clyde (Clyde Barrow version) - Luna

Tell Me - Galaxie 500

I remember where I first heard Luna's version of "Bonnie and Clyde." It was maybe my second week of grad school and a friend had taken me with her to meet an old friend for dinner at his apartment in Evanston. We immediately hit it off. It's much more common now for girls to be music geeks than even 10 years ago, and I used to meet snobby indie boys who seemed surprised and even annoyed to meet a girl who not only knew what they were talking about, but often knew more than them. This wasn't the case with this guy--let's call him Dan. We chatted enthusiastically and somehow got on the subject of Galaxie 500 and Dean Wareham's continuing adventures in Luna. I confessed I wasn't enough of fan (I didn't even own any G500 at this point) to have bothered to keep up, but Dan insisted on playing Luna's cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde," a hidden track on Penthouse. I loved it right away: the "All Tomorrow's Parties" dirgey groove, the fervent violins, Wareham's painfully correct French, Laetitia Sadier's straightfaced responses, and most of all, those hiccupped yelps in the background. It sounds like it was a riot to record. I forgot about "Bonnie and Clyde" for a long time, but a month ago Luna released the covers album, Lunified that includes both the Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker mixes, along with a slew of other well-chosen covers. The guy who once reframed "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste" knows how to respect his heroes and predecessors without taking the slavish imitation route.

The only time I saw Luna play was in late August 2001 at New York's Bowery Ballroom. These were friendly confines for Luna and maybe the town was just very used to the band because the audience was restless and chatty. My friends and I weren't serious fans so we lingered close to the back, but were still kind of irritated by the inattentive crowd and, in particular, a hyper-physically demonstrative couple in front of us. I can't tell you what was on the setlist, except that the band closed with "Bonnie and Clyde." I was on vacation and it was a hot, ordinary night in New York. It was maybe three weeks before 9/11. Luna had played at the World Trade Center earlier that month.

I don't know if every American is like this, but I often think of unrelated activities--people I've met, places I've gone, books I've read, music I've heard--before and after, particularly events that cluster close to the date. For example, I'll always remember The Shins' Oh, Inverted World as belonging to that summer before, when I must have played it 700 times until one day I thought I never wanted to hear it again. Around that time I read Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, a novel that begins with a sky-borne catastrophe and spirals into blame and paranoia. And Luna too--though I knew Luna long before 9/11--gets lumped in my mind with that blithe, then suddenly tense and helpless time.

I didn't lose anyone close, but several of my professional acquaintances died in the World Trade Tower attacks. They were on the 94th floor and didn't have a chance. I remember the first time (as a silly twentysomething in a job where I was in over my head) I met one of them--a powerful man in the financial industry, a Park Avenue patrician--and thinking now, here's someone with the world at his feet. It took only a few minutes to learn that all of us live fragile lives, that our fortifications are, in fact, eggshells.

Maybe a year after 9/11, I saw a hairstylist who had been recommended by someone on a listserv I subscribed to. I liked his work and before leaving asked about making the next appointment. Having watched him over the previous two or so hours it took to color and cut my hair, I had gathered from his body language and voice that he was carrying something around. "Hey," he said, "don't make another appointment with me because I won't be here in two months." In one of those odd moments when relative strangers suddenly decide to unburden themselves and you just happen to be standing next to them when they're ready to talk, he explained that his sister had died in the Towers. Since then, he had drifted from New York to Seattle to Phoenix to Chicago. He couldn't think clearly any more and making decisions--like where to settle down for longer than a lease term--were beyond his capacity. I sometimes think about him and wonder if he ever came to terms with the disaster and how he felt about the fact that all of us mourned with him for a time--pressing our hands hard into our chests to the national anthem, exercising the alert vigilance of grade-school crossing guards in airports, scrutinizing plans for the Ground Zero site as if it were our own home being built--and then one day ... moved on.


Almost nothing in American indie rock is more elegiac and backward-looking (and good God, isn't so much of it?!) than Galaxie 500 songs when Dean Wareham is singing falsetto. Even if he's just talking about buying junk food while stoned or trying to get a girl's attention, his fever-keen implies something important has been lost and is probably now unrecoverable. Knowing what I know today and what I didn't when I first heard G500's music, this all seems a bit exaggerated and young. You deal with losses, and then you find new interests and people and things to moor you to the world again. Which I guess is why for me, an album like On Fire seems to belong so much more to the past than 17 years.