You watch your friends either sell out or get pulled under by the demands of the dayjob, or the marriage and the kids, and then you don’t see them anymore. Maybe that happens to you. Do you blame them – or yourself? Do you feel bad for them – or yourself – and wish that all of you could get your old lives back, fighting the system, going out and raising hell? Butchers Blind frontman Pete Mancini contemplates those questions on his band’s debut album Destination Blues, streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page. He sets his plainspoken, politically aware lyrics to a guitar-driven backdrop that evokes the early 90s alt-country of bands like Wilco, part classic country, part amorphous indie rock. That Mancini would have such a spot-on political edge comes as no surprise considering that he played lead guitar on Matthew Grimm‘s latest brilliant album. A Grimm bandmate, bassist Mick Hargreaves, co-produced (with Billl Herman).
The bitter country waltz Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore sets the stage for what’s to come, and it’s not optimistic: aging ex-punk rocker watches his marriage fall apart and his thirty years of steady employment go adrift as the self-medication gets the better of him. Tear It Down addresses the same kind of doomed anomie with a more aggressive, middle-period REM-ish vibe. The wryly titled OPP is not the Naughty By Nature hit but an original that sarcastically examines other peoples’ problems (rather than pussy) with a strong nod to Wilco. By contrast, the title cut, one of the album’s musically strongest, follows a janglier, more optimistic tangent that reminds of the early days of Australian rockers the Church.
Honestly goes back to the blend of country lead guitar lines over uneasy indie changes, with a venomously sarcastic lyric:
Always have to scream to make a sound
I hear the things you say whan I’m not around
Took your left and drew blood with your right
I was counting cards in the dark, taking my time
College Town keeps the cynicism at redline, a knowing look at how wide-eyed idealism goes to hell as graduation and then the inevitable dayjob loom on the horizon. Drowned, with its rustic Appalachian bite, is even angrier, a dis at a guy who’s sold out and thinks that makes him better than his friends from his younger, wilder days. Young Again is a lot gentler, with jangly Velvet Underground echoes.
Mancini brings the edge back again with the slow, intense 6/8 ballad Selfish Silent Films:
Your future heaven
Is giving you hell
A repeat performance
Scripts you can’t sell
Then the band picks it up again with Enough Already Anyway, a sideways salute to a nameless rocker who was obviously an influence although they never got to meet. The album winds up with its most stereotypically indie track, Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side), told from the deliriously exhausted point of view of someone who wishes his nights out in Manhattan didn’t end so soon, waiting for the last Long Island Railroad train out of Penn Station. Butchers Blind’s next show is at the Parkside next January 9.