The postman dropped this off last week and I’d been dreading its arrival.
It’s Angels by It Only Gets Worse, an album by the duo of Maurice De Jong & Matt Finney, released on tape by Cloister Recordings.
I have been listening to it on download for a couple of weeks, struggling to get to grips with it, to try and understand why it makes me feel about it how I do. But now that it has physically arrived, now that it is actually here, in my house, I have to try and nail down my response. And then move on.
What’s the big deal? Why all the angst?
Because this album pulIs off the trick of being simultaneously totally awesome and thoroughly and utterly dreadful. It’s a singular piece of work which both repulses and entrances, makes me feel desolate and sick to my stomach and yet somehow fills me with empathy. I feel like Frank Black in Millennium when he walks in on a particularly distressing crime scene and it’s, it’s…..incredible.
No more prevarication. The spoken word lyrics by Matt Finney deal with a father taking and killing his twin daughters. Awful. In the hands of anyone other than a writer as good as Finney, this would be enough for me to consign the album to the bin. But it’s the words and their delivery; tense, truncated yet terribly descriptive sentences, they tell not of the actual murder or even the motives, but in their noting of small details and incidentals, they bring the horror home harder than any insensitive gratuitousness.
But Matt doesn’t do this alone. The De Jong’s music is as strangely singular as the lyrics. It pulls together the jazzy inflections and heavy ambience of Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks, the 80’s super-lush studio work and melody of people like Enya or even the Rosso Corsa label, the synth dread of John Carpenter, something almost Goblinesque and something utterly up-to-date to make a timeless soundtrack. Snow-flecked, seductive and mesmerising, there is also something slightly ‘off’ that I can’t put my finger on and it’s this that makes it such a match for the lyrics and the subject.
So clearly Angels is an incredible piece of work, absorbing and affecting, strangely uplifting and at the same time utterly devastating. I really don’t know……would I recommend this seriously challenging album? What?! How can I honestly recommend it knowing that there is every possibility, with a proper listen, that it will thoroughly distress and confuse? I mean, it’s an album about a father murdering his children for fucks sake!! And it’s beautiful.
Thought I’d never get the ground to thaw. Can’t even feel my hands now. The snow coming this early seems to be all anyone’s talking about. I might even get to see some Christmas lights on the drive home.