Saturday, December 16, 2006

Into the Light

Aereogramme, My Heart Has a Wish That You Would Not Go, Sonic Unyon Recording Company [2/6/07]

At the door, the curator took the old man's hand with an extra firmness. "My heart has a wish, Father: that you would not go."
-- William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (1971)


Compared to their debut, My Heart Has a Wish is a kinder, gentler affair. Granted, the title comes from a line in The Exorcist that didn't make it into William Friedkin's frightfest, but there's nothing scary going on here. In fact, the Scottish quartet are sounding more like fellow heart-on-their-sleeves countrymen Snow Patrol these days and less like the more elliptical British and American acts they once called to mind: My Bloody Valentine, Slint, etc.

I'm not sure this is an improvement. The band always had a strong sense of melody, but I miss the angst. Perhaps they got it out of their system on the Seclusion EP or the In the Fishtank collaboration with Isis (I couldn't say, because I haven't heard either 2006 release). From an instrumental perspective, there's more going on here--strings, bells, etc.--but Craig B.'s singing is more conventionally pop-oriented. Not bad, but needs more edge.

And here's my Tablet review of their first record:

Aereogramme, A Story in White, Matador (2002)

Like Arab Strap and Mogwai, Aereogramme hails from Glasgow and shares a label, Chemikal Underground, which licensed this release to Matador. While listening to A Story in White, however, visions of American acts of the 1990s, like Slint and Seam, danced in my head. Maybe it's because I'm more familiar with the US arm of the loud-soft axis, but Aereogramme takes me back to those days. (Their guitar squall also reminds me of Swervedriver, but I always thought those Oxford lads sounded more American than British.) Not that there's anything retro about this recording; the quieter sections are just as likely to incorporate electronic blips and beeps as cello and piano. What distinguishes Aereogramme most are Craig B.'s vocals, which range from tender and boyish to throat-shredding anguish--and his are not the lyrics of a happy guy--but the overall effect is more cathartic than gloomy.

Endnote: The Heart Has a Wish press release indicates that Craig B. has been dealing with serious throat problems of late, so Aereogramme's stylistic change is also about self-preservation--better to have a "small" voice than none at all. Still, I miss the caterwauling of yore. Also, A Story in White was followed by Sleep and Release in 2003, so Heart is actually album number three.

As for The Exorcist, I saw it the year it came out (I was eight; the other kids were jealous, because their parents wouldn't take them to an R-rated film). Suffice to say it terrified the, uh, hell out of me. Tried to watch it on TV four years later and couldn't get through it--even with edits, commercial breaks, etc. I was babysitting and had just put the little girl to bed; the timing couldn't have been worse (strange house, no companions, etc.).

I caught the director's cut a few years ago and got through it without shielding my eyes. It remains the scariest movie ever made. The most disturbing thing about seeing it as a kid is that all the horrible stuff happens because of a kid. Knowing that Satan was the true culprit did nothing to set my mind at ease. I'm still glad I saw it when I did. Images from MovieMaze and the AMG.

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