It’s hard for record labels. I got the MP3 promos of this ages ago and listened a few times and… nothing. I’d slightly lost touch with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Variations over the last couple of albums – this is seven – but I was broadly a fan, had loved finally seeing them at the Dirty Three ATP in Butlins; had many of their albums, had appreciated they’d sped up over the years but this one didn’t grab me. It seemed an exemplar for neither one thing nor another, fell badly between two schools. I just didn’t get it, couldn’t hear why it had to be. It fell into an iPit ™ and became something I’d probably only hear again by some accident of Shuffle. I wouldn’t exactly have minded if it found me again but I didn’t feel compelled to try and find it. I certainly couldn’t think of anything to say so, not being a paid NME journalist (bitchy, I know but have you seen that Ekoplekz review in there?) and following Wittgenstein, I decided I ought to remain silent.And then the CD appeared in the mail.
It seemed improper not to give it another go. They’d gone to the trouble of sending out an actual CD through the post; someone clearly believed in this album. So I put it on and started bouncing on the bed with my three year old (my usual reviewing procedure).
And this time it opened up. Or I opened up. Something happened. It seemed like a completely different album and this album was fantastic. It starts with a child’s voice and this immediately gripped my three year old; he listened intently, was half-way through asking me who that boy was when the music kicked in and he and I went mental. “Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal)” roars into life and just keeps going and this sets the tone.There are quiet, pastoral, moments: the short piano-led “Little Ones Run;” the lilting violin sprawl of the “What We Loved Was Not Enough;” but what really strikes is the feeling of rage and disappointment and some of the tracks have extended bursts of energy that recall the best bits of Liars (especially circa They Were Wrong So We Drowned). But it’s the affably aggressive West Country anarchists Blyth Power that came strongest to me; that same slightly hopeless/slightly encouraged soft-scented fury at how things aren’t as they could have been, the same nod back towards a revolutionary past via folk and drone and punk. You can hear the lyrics but you don’t need to because the enfolding music is exact. You know which side of the fence they are on without being told. The music is necessary and sufficient.
And the fact that this album is suffused with a real sense of parenthood is refreshing too because that’s clearly a difficult area to work in without mawking up all over the place. This album perfectly captures the joys and horrors and longings and fears related to bringing children into an imperfect world and stands as a brilliant, terrible beacon for parents everywhere to start thinking hard again about what the fuck we’ve done.