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muted poeticism, probing
A Modest Proposal (Self Destruct)
By Bob Bahr
Punk like this, well, it's music that matters. Not so much as social commentary, but in a gut-level, "this is what's screwed up with YOU" kind of way. It's the ire, produced by stupidity, that fueled Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" and put the bite in the Beatles' "Revolution." It made Lou Reed pick up the pen and it gave Jello Biafra something to do. Ian MacKaye has made a career of it, and thousands of hardcore punk bands across the world tap into the same power source. As always, the critical eye is looking inward too, at personal faults, perceived inadequacies, and a staunch belief that punks are foreigners in an insane society.
So here's Lather, plugging in too, using the crunch of guitar and a strong adherence to melody to tell the world what's what. Here's another celebrated Louisville band, riding high in our acclaimed punk "Scene," telling their version of the unvarnished truth with a yell and a howl. To the person on the other side of the glass, Lather says in the course of A Modest Proposal: "If I had your mentality I'd die from reality" and "I hate your holiness and the way you tell your lies/If it wasn't all for hope I'd try my best to make you cry."
There's also "Yarn," which serves as an antidote for the bile, or perhaps this is just the stoney exterior exhibited in the other songs crumbling under self-doubt, the kind felt in your bedroom after the show, after the school day, the work day, the lovemaking and the love breaking. Throw out all speculation, and you're still left with someone singing, to himself, "If you find me stuck tangled up and out of luck/If you find me down and out and choking on their words/If I find my way out stumbling through this mind of doubt/If you find me anyway please don't walk away."
Musically, Lather mixes the insistent guitar grind of punk with some hard rock maneuverability — a familiar mixture that is well executed here. But it's in the lyrics that Lather distinguishes itself. The question is, with Jeremy Podgursky's and Brian Kaelin's shouted vocals, can you distinguish what they are saying?
If you can hear the words, or if you follow along with the lyrics in the CD booklet, you'll find an obtuse poeticism that mostly details personal pain, and mostly in emotional, abstract terms rather than concrete images. Sometimes the linkage of ideas is surreal, especially in the intriguing "Spitting Cell," in which Lather sings, "Behind your appetizing grin/Your stomach's full so full of past/Let your closet drink your skin." In "Equinox," an uncharacteristic pop song with acoustic guitar, an unsettled mood is sketched in disarmingly mundane details. "Confession" has the character in the song watching his love drift away across a harsh span of sidewalk.
It's easy to imagine the Louisville Scene rallying around A Modest Proposal. Its energy and hidden riches make it improve with each listening. Lather's world is one in which faith can heal, the human touch does comfort, and the examined life is excruciating. "Where do I come in?" Lather shouts in "Insolence," in the process letting us know that we are not alone in that existential question. Lather's modest proposal seems to be to band together, stare eyeball to eyeball at each other and figure this mess out. You can start with this album.