Where has this band been all my life? I read about them ages ago and I just took my sweet time getting to them. And for that, I’m sorry.
I guess you can call this music “alt country” in the vaguest sense, especially on their quietest tracks. But this is the noisiest alt country I’ve ever heard, by quite a margin. “234” is what alt country would sound like if Sonic Youth played tried to play country with more conventional tuning (and basically zero regard for tradition, as you would expect from that band). There are multiple other tracks where you can catch yourself wondering where the “country” is, outside of that fiddle. (And, sometimes, Bozulich’s delivery, which occasionally has touches of twang, such as on the verses of “A Song About Walls.”)
And it’s the fiddle more than Bozulich’s songs, which have caused a bunch of people to label this album as such. Sometimes she writes songs that sort of sound like they could be traditional country (“Marmalade”? maybe? “Outside of Town” definitely) but often the songs are much closer to noise rock or post hardcore, certainly in aesthetic if not in chords and melody. I do hear a vaguely country aesthetic in the quieter moments, but how much of that is because this was labeled “alt country” I don’t know.
It’s a good set of songs, especially from someone known as a provocateur more than a songwriter in previous bands. (Yes, she had help on half or more, which likely had something to do with it.) I particularly like “The Small Song” and, especially, “Dragon Lady”. (“Dragon Lady” is fucking amazing.) I know that the aesthetic has a lot to do with this. But music this noisy needs strong songs to work this well, and I think they’re here.
I can completely understand why Nels Cline heard this record and found a way to insert himself into this band for the next record. It is awesome. And the fact that it is this under-known is some kind of tragedy.
Just a great record.