I know it’s cold. Winter comes ever year, you know. Some cope better than others-some get mad, some get s.o s.a.d. I think the real depths are hit by those that want to fight it, that think the atmospheric conditions are somehow unfair. Some seem to take the changing of the seasons personally. I know I talk about the weather a lot (don’t we all?) and I guess that’s because in running a music blog my moods dictate what I feel like listening to and therefore influences the type of stuff I post. There’s no point resisting how the atmospheric conditions make you feel, as R. Buckminster Fuller said “Don’t fight forces, use them”.
So with the onset of the big grey I’ve found myself snuggling up with the usual suspects and a few new acquaintances. Jason Molina is in my ears pretty much year round but come May his music takes on a deeper, somehow even sadder, dimension. A friend recently pointed me back towards the lovely ashen sounds of Michael Gira’s Angels of Light. And of course, ladies and gentlemen…Mr Leonard Cohen. This clearly isn’t a diet to be sustained regularly, but I can assert that it goes well with red wine, midnight drizzle and, yeah, seasonal orientated sadness affective disorder.
When I started listening to Gunman & The Holy Ghost it actually made me laugh. Such misery! This is melancholy with gristle! This album is barefaced in it’s misery-it doesn’t resist it, it uses it. Song titles like “I Don’t Believe In Love Anymore” and “Oh Lord, Let Me Die In Pain” are pretty good indication of what we’re in for here, though there’s great variation on this deliciously dark album. Opener “The Eight To Five Train To Nothing” snared me right in the lip and I was willfully dragged up through that ink black water and onto the good ship Gunman. A relatively upbeat tune, it has some sad, sad lyrics:
"I would want you here but you’re nowhere near so I just keep steaming on; Into the wilderness and unhappiness right back where I came from"
Lines like this are so damn dark, they bring a smile to my face. Like when I’m listening to Molina’s “Let Me Go , Le Me Go, Let Me Go” and it’s so, so fucking despondent that all you can do is smile. Enjoying something cutting to the bone may be seen as sadomasochistic, but that’s ok. Music should provide all manner of sensations.
There’s a great range of styles played with here, mainly in the realm of folk rock. Rollicking country tales of a cowboys solitude (“Outlaw’s Shout”) mid tempo jaunts of misery (“Oh Lord, Let Me Die In Pain”) and yearning R ‘n B tinged folk (“Lonely”). “Like A Soldier…” is the most Cohen-esque number, undoubtedly paying homage to the great poet in sound and lyrics. The military beat used is a stroke of simple genius and lends itself beautifully to the metaphor the song - that love is war. Closer “Dream Of A Highway” opens softly enough and builds superbly, before unfolding into it’s noisy, dramatic conclusion. It’s a song that reaches great heights and, like all good albums do, leaves us hungering for more.
I’ve seen depression and experienced it, I understand the paralysing affects it can have. I don’t think it’s something to be glorified. What I do admire is when an artist makes something out of their sadness. I’m sure it’s therapeutic for them and I wish I had the capacity to do so it but I don’t, so I listen instead and share the pain. Albums like this from Gunman & The Holy Ghost exist to share the dark and the cold with, to be enveloped by. To soundtrack the settling of the fog, to provide a pale sun on the bleakest of days.