Monday, May 9, 2011

(Felice Brothers) Celebration, Essay; Death In Autumn, Birth in Spring

We sat at Sputnick’s with Greg Farley and listened to the 80’s dance mix playing. He told us he’d be playing the MPC now, as well as the fiddle and washboard. I asked him what he’d been listening to lately. He seemed embarrassed to tell me “mostly just Native American tribal music. Drum chants and shit.” When I asked him about the new album he was excited. When I asked him about the supposed change in sound he just laughed, told me it was the same as it ever was and then recited the same oft-repeated maxim about the need to progress. We quoted Dylan[1], finished our drinks and continued next door to the Hi-Dive. As I talked to the others they all took that same approach; they all acknowledged their progression but denied any assertion that they were doing anything differently than they ever had; ‘the new album fits seamlessly within the discography and you can hear that in the live show,’ they said. ‘Just listen.’

We had last spoken on a bitter October night. They we’re all sick and had apologized to the crowd about their voices. They apologized for the sound (read: Larimer Lounge). They apologized to us on the sidewalk for no reason. They had played one of the most beautiful single sets I’ve heard in years, working effortlessly through slightly slowed versions, introducing eventual classics from the tour-only Mixtape[2] like “White Limo” and “Marlboro Man”. The show will be ever carved in memory[3], yet for this they apologized. Greg admitted they needed time off to get healthy; they needed to finish the tour and take time and get back to writing. Seven months later we were standing in the Hi-dive laughing about the same thing; they were finishing another 2 and a half month tour; they were all still sick; both times Ian Felice would be quiet and observantly despondent while James Felice would hug and thank anyone who came up to talk (They are all genuinely great kids but I particularly need to thank James for his kindness. Such a sweet fucking man). It was the same band, yet the second time they were noticeably more alive, fueled by their own creation.

Its May 3rd and the new album Celebration, Florida (complete with synths and MPC drum sounds, half-rapped and auto-tuned vocals, time shifts, breakbeats, song fragments floating between tracks, and stories about Mike Tyson and Oliver Stone) will drop in a week. Tonight, the band will blaze through a double-timed set spanning their discography. Some songs will be nearly unidentifiable at such a wild speed; fans will try to sing but cant yell the words fast enough. They will rarely stop between songs; they will play new songs throughout the set and nobody will really notice. Ian, James, Christmas and Greg will all take turns singing/screaming and by the end Ian will stand on the bass drum before jumping down and playing the last songs on his knees. They will encore, it will be the perfect finish. They will get down and come back to break down their equipment and hang out. They will sign limited edition posters featuring a doubled wolf and accordion keys[4]. They will do all of this without ever acknowledging their new album by name, without ever hinting that anything has changed; they will do all of these things without ever acknowledging that they’ve been reborn as a new band, and that their potential for progression and experimentation is now limitless. They have escaped and reinvented their genre so that that its not even this album but the next one you should be excited about.

Here is my concluding paragraph. Thank you public education for my understanding of structure. Here is where I elaborate on the ideas of progression and evolution. Here is where I stake claim that this album is not only revolutionary, but more so than the recent electronic experiments of Iron and Wine (Kiss Each Other Clean) or Bright Eyes (The People’s Key). Here is where I not-so-subtly imply that the last 20 years of hip-hop (as well as resulting movements),electronic music and the avant garde have informed this album more than any album by Dylan or The Band. Here is where the revelation will occur, right here in the last few sentences like I’m Joyce singing Dubliners. But, I’m not Joyce, there is no revelation; I won’t whimper for e.e. or end abruptly for Salinger. I will just, you will just, please will you just listen.

--Z. Saint James 5.9.11. (!) PHOTOS SOON (!)

[1] “He not busy being born is busy dying”
[2] Apparently they only did one pressing of Mixtape. So, I will burn copies to anyone who writes me ONLY UNTIL the band presses it again. Its just as important in their career as any other album and will at least be remembered for containing “Marlboro Man”.
[3] I won a broken washboard autographed by the band and dated 10-10-10, which I gave to a girl I had only been dating for a month. That girl is now the love of my life. I Love You, Erika Ryann Sedmak. As for those washboards, according to their tour manager there is only one company in the country that makes them and specially reinforces them specifically for the band. If he is not mistaken, I am the only person in the world to own a signed broken washboard by the Felice Brothers. Except that I don't own it because I gave it to this girl I love. So, I hope she loves me too.
[4] Of course I bought one of these posters and got it signed by the band. I will always be more of a fan than a journalist.

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