It’s been eight – nearly nine – years since I’ve been captivated by the Stephen Brodsky-led series of musical powerhouses, from Cave-In’s many formations to his solo efforts and side projects. It has developed into a respectable obsession I’ll admit, and while I’ve lost no friends in taking a controversial and unsettling position such as this one, I’ve been nonetheless dealt the damning stigma of not having the ability to be sensible and as such cannot be seen fit to make decisions of sobriety and brevity. I feel that there is even a conspiracy to prevent me from even voting in the upcoming election. But before paranoia gets the best of me yet again, with this billionth Brodsky release, I feel that there are some things that, as a longtime fan as well as a critic, I must concede to the opposition.
The one general consensus concerning Stephen Brodsky is that while his sonic palate might not be the most vast in musical history, it is nonetheless one that can take a variety of distortions, tunings, atmospheres and song structures as if sound were a three-flavored Neapolitan ice cream expanded rigorously into, like, nine or 12. As far as singer-songwriters go, Brodsky is the most schizophrenic of the whole lot without actually being a diagnosed schizophrenic. There are songs that stick to the traditional acoustic and vocals format such as the wistful “Orange Sunshine Medicine,” though there are ones turned up a little higher like the full opening song “Dead of Winter” which has an angel’s chorus of kazoos and frayed electric guitars, and there are still louder songs. “Splatterbrain” takes a stoner rock aesthetic that makes traditional stoner rock songs seem expressed in whimpers rather than whales, with its pervasive, fuzzed guitar riffs and throbbing percussion. The most accessbile of these track is the middle one, “Rainbow No More,” a plugged-in piece with twang guitars strummed to a concise, minimal rhythm vocalized simply and beatifully. Brodsky has always been an artist of noticeable versatility, just never really packed onto one whole album that totals at 18 songs, mind you. Impressively, though, the most consistent aspect of the album is the one that should be consistent, the production. In the past, Brodsky’s previous solo outfits were cobbled together from haphazard home recordings that, while strong on writing, were clearly one-offs not originally meant for collection. Like Pet Genius and the Octave Museum before that, Brodsky’s side projects gain in significance now that they are given the proper care that these songs deserve when meshed into a whole.
If there is but one setback, it’s one that I have only come to really confront after all of these years. I have and always will have a fondness for Until Your Heart Stops, especially when it comes to Brodsky’s lyrics at that time which spearheaded the more stylistic and expressive phrasings that have now been abused by less-talented outfits. In that time, however, Brodsky’s ideas have come to make less and less sense, crumbling from emotional abstracts to pot-clouded rhyme-filling. The titles alone give off this post-Black Francis wordplay. On the one hand it gives a fair look into his thinking, he’s into playfulness and stream-of-consciousness which is fine, but there is the possibility that he just doesn’t care much about saying anything of any consequence. If the latter is the case than I’m more than happy for him to forego words and give us a dose of instru-metal. Granted if there is anything Brodsky centers around it’s pop, which has never faired well without vocals, but it’s not like he’s not done an about face before.