The Long Winters, p.2

Even when the lyrics don't keep your attention, the music does - the harmonies, the unsuspecting progressions, the hooks and the grabbers. In "Mimi," which sounds, as one listener put it, "American gothic, as if you were walking out into the ocean dressed in a heavy black dress with lots of crinolines," there are audible ghosts howling in the wind. The song is not maudlin, it's just scary and truthful and perfect - in fact, due to what I assume to be an intentionally frustrating lack of resolution in melody, combined with the huskiest declaration of recent memory ("Mimi, I've got to get into you"), this is a perfect song. And perfect songs are hard to come by.

Other highlights: "Give Me a Moment" combines unusual percussion with a drifting keyboard line and Roderick wailing "I've been awaaaaay" into the night until the song devolves into a minimalist meltdown. "Carparts" is about leaving a dear friend your car's parts until you come back, and it goes from aggressive power pop into lilting la-la's and shimmering harmonies. "Samaritan" sounds a little like what would happen if mid-career Paul Simon played guitar on a Paul McCartney song. And "Medicine Cabinet Pirate" features a techno-beat under a driving guitar riff.

And then there's "Copernicus," which is already great because songs about scientists are almost always great. With a haunting melody and martial percussion (remember "Time After Time(annElise)" from Reckoning? Aw, yeah.) It's a beautiful track, and with lyrics like "You called a cough a smile, now I can't tell glad from ill," Roderick once again shows an exquisite touch. Musically, the track sounds like Roderick called in all his Seattle music friends, gave 'em some spoons, a couple washboards, a couple of rounds of hooch and a few puppy dogs and then pressed hit go. It's awesome, it's silly, it's a pure country drinking song about getting back to a Shantytown, it's got dogs barking, people yelping, maracas and breaking dishes, and a cameo by Roderick's dad. It has no place on the album and yet at the same time it makes perfect sense. Because underlying all the pain and seething rage and frustration and longing is a thread of seeing through the darkness to the light. Even in his darkest words, Roderick somehow manages to evoke a feeling of hope.

Before making this album, Roderick was ready to give up on music. "But I had to record these songs," he says, "Because if I hadn't, I would have felt totally defeated by life. And when we were finished with this record and I didn't hate it and I wasn't embarrassed by it, it was like this huge relief. Because music is the only thing that makes me really happy."

the worst thing you can do is harm is real music written by a real person - in a fake world, this album is a reminder of the time when everyone thought Seattle was where the real music was. . With the worst thing you can do is harm, John Roderick shows that maybe what we thought back then was right - those Seattleites might be a little fucked up but they make really interesting records. And this one is good - real good.

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Photo: The Long Winters

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