May 08, 2019

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Album Review: SOAK – Grim Town


It’s hard to escape the feeling that anyone who calls their album Grim Town in an age when you have to almost put a gun to someone’s head to make them listen to one is either incredibly brave or incredibly blasé.

This is even more jaw-dropping when you take into consideration that it’s a place that only exists in the mind of Bridie Monds-Watson, an imaginarium which eventually unfolds to be both a haven and a prison.

Being treated to the inside of anyone’s head is rarely less than awkward, but Monds-Watson has used the premise to deliberately sharpen some of the edges around her writing first heard on the critically acclaimed debut Before We Forgot How To Dream. This new starkness is rarely more potent than on Fall Asleep, Back Seat, about overhearing the conversation between her parents agreeing to divorce as a child, the words a sombre nursery rhyme for heartbroken grownups.

 

If coming to terms with that trauma is now long in the past, the singer spends much of Grim Town accepting many other things, firstly her changing relationship with a fiercely independent Londonderry home on Knock Me Off My Feet, but also with the inner workings of depression and how to escape its ugly event horizon on Get So Go Kid, its drift-laden piano and marching drums an amusement park theme staked against a delicate, piping hymn to making it out.

Even when striving so desperately to be true to yourself, a person’s life can still be defined by the actions of others and the relationships we pursue that we would do better to leave alone. Grim Town’s vacuum doesn’t exclude those people; the sombre Everybody Loves You deals with the isolation of being fossilised in your own feelings, while the doused strings and poise of Valentine Schmalentine are a token of when the final beads of loving warmth were still connecting, like hands wrapped tight around the thorns of a rose.

For somewhere so blighted, there’s a lot going on here. A teenage Monds-Watson used SOAK as an identity, a source of boldness she didn’t always feel, but this license to be someone else again reconnects to a pop self sometimes lost; Maybe’s scramble up-tempo then squared by Scrapyard, an indie dreamscape which strips away much of the rest of the album’s wistful enervation and replaces it with a rowdier sense of fulfillment.

Having felt like being stuck forever inside the walls of Grim Town with a hundred other unwilling souls, closer Nothing Looks The Same takes us away, a farewell perhaps not a goodbye but a departure all the same, one which sees our guide leaving her introspection and doubt to another day. The trip like this record is a complicated one, an assemblage of parts which at times manages to cut through its own contrivances and make you care deeply about every character wrapped up in it, but too often hope is weighed down by melancholy.

Tourist or resident? You’ll have to decide.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 04 May 2019 at 5:23am 


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