Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gavin Friday — Catholic




Gavin Friday doesn't just make albums anymore. In the first fifteen years of his recording career (beginning with the Virgin Prunes and continuing as a solo artist), he released roughly eight albums. Since 1996's wonderfully weird pop experiment Shag Tobacco, he released some film scores (hard to credit as a true solo effort) and displayed several performance art pieces that were not recorded. To say that Catholic is a highly anticipated album —and, surprisingly, an unexpected return— for me is an understatement.

I honestly expected him to never make another album again. And yet, here he is: making his fourth solo album over two decades after his first. There is much changed this time around. The passionately falsetto vocal flourishes are still there, alongside the lush pop backdrops, but the streamlined production and toned down sarcasm is entirely new. Indeed, where he was artsy and playfully facetious in the past, he is now intimately dedicated to delving into his heart and mind. The melodramatic musical backings provide for the the calmest Gavin Friday album to date.

And yet, all of the this seems practically irrelevant when you consider one integral aspect: longtime collaborator Maurice "The Man" Seezer is nowhere to be found.

Amongst self-realizations galore, too many accounts of past mistakes and a generally nostalgic view of just about everything, the album reeks of personal revelations. That paints the picture of an album too dour for its own good, and yet, here is new collaborator Herbie Macken popping up in all the familiar musical positions that Seezer once occupied.

Oh, and Gavin declaring he is in love several times throughout the album.

At its core, Catholic is a breakup album. But, it's a little more complicated than just that. At the same time it's about loss, it's also about personal redemption. I have no idea who the bulk of these songs are about, but they do feel very specific.

Take a song like 'It's All Ahead of You' for instance. Besides it being quite possibly the prettiest thing Gavin Friday has ever done, it fulfills an incredibly articulate point of view from one estranged lover to another.

"It's all ahead of you if want it. It's all behind you, if you can let it go. . .Do you know that the best is yet to come?"

Wonderful stuff.

If I were to compare this to any of Friday's previous albums, I'd say it's most easily likened to Adam 'n' Eve because it takes on a very misleading stock "alt rock" approach; very polished on the surface, but carefully layered upon closer inspection. Instead of coming off as an overcooked cheesefest, every song offers a different approach to mainstream "alt-rock." The one track where the album actually does rock out ('Where'd You Go? Gone') sticks out on sheer dynamics alone (not to mention, it's easily a musical highlight).

With the closer 'Lord, I'm Coming' Gavin Friday recaptures his older theatrical persona, as he takes on the role of someone on their death bed and the realizations that encounter someone in that situation. A darkly beautiful homage to life's codas, it stands as an incredibly brain nutritious closer to an album filled with enough brain food to keep me going for quite a while.

It also just happens to be catchy as heck at the same time.

He has a way with words that has become refreshingly direct. He can say something convoluted one line and then redeem himself the next with the simplest arrangement of words. It's as if he is talking to someone so specifically that there is an aural paradigm shift that takes place and the most ambiguous words become the most appropriate. Therefore, all of us are drawn in and all of us can relate.

Album's defining quote: "Once I was young and then I grew up."

Don't wait so long to make another album, please.

~Austin

2 comments:

bookdom said...

I know this is way after the fact, but I just picked up a copy of 'catholic,' and I miss The Man Seezer! Has there been any reveal on why he and Friday didn't collaborate on this album? (I was afraid that perhaps he had died, but wikipedia says that he sat on a film jury this past March.)

bookdom said...

I know this is way after the fact, but I just picked up a copy of 'catholic,' and I miss The Man Seezer! Has there been any reveal on why he and Friday didn't collaborate on this album? (I was afraid that perhaps he had died, but wikipedia says that he sat on a film jury this past March.)