It’s taken me nearly a month to write a review of Condor and Jaybird’s newest album, The Power. No, it’s not just because I’ve been busy teaching and writing and giving readings in laundromats.
It’s because The Power is not the type of album you listen to a couple of times and think, “Oh, I get it. It’s this: …”
Dissecting The Power is a slow burn. It’s not a term paper. It’s a dissertation.
Example: According to producer Andrew Barkau of Future Apple Tree, ‘Lightbringer IV’ alone is a tapestry of 80 tracks that jostle one another as in a prelude to a mosh pit, and then swell into an orgiastic sonorous dogpile.
Barkau’s the same guy who describes the album’s theme as a “theological buffet.” An astute assessment, it serves to inject the soaring melodies and acrobatic syncopation with additional significance. But let’s go back, first, to the album release party:
The Village Theatre in East Davenport was beyond capacity, I can tell you that for goddamn sure. Not that anyone could have done a thing about it. If the fire marshal had shown up and turned the hoses on us, maybe some of the younger families with toddlers might have gone home. The rest of us would have found the blast refreshing, as we were already soaked with sweat, anyway.
The Golden Fleece opened and set the tone for the evening. The band is known for inventive melodies, a satisfactory amount of thumptastic percussion, and a barefoot lead singer very at ease with the audience.
Next: Mountain Swallower, another local favorite and a fine group of young fellows who bill themselves as bridge-gazers. They’re like shoe-gazers but not as boring. Mellow, but unafraid. It doesn’t make me want to sit in the dark and drink alone. I’ll keep the darkness and the drinking, but one cannot sit and listen to Mountain Swallower. Some form of creation is required. A little crying is acceptable.
By the time Condor and Jaybird took the stage, there was not a dry person in a one-block radius. I’m fairly certain I slipped in puddles of sweat as I got in line to exit the building for a smoke, as did most everyone else. Between sets, the room emptied out but for scatterings of torn and abandoned clothing, spilled drinks, a few old folks who weren’t about to get out of their chairs, and a handful little kids with those noise-canceling ear muff things.
Those last two details are important: Condor and Jaybird isn’t a sound that caters to a select few. Librarians, gutter punks, retirees, bartenders, bankers, schoolteachers, carpenters, toddlers, small-business owners, students, and exotic dancers were all members of the audience – I even bumped into a lumberjack.
It’s not that the band plays it safe with their music. Detractors might not appreciate so much experimentation or non-traditional use of instruments or the simple-yet-terrifying bird people that appear on stage.
In the very first minutes, a listener will assume that the band’s main influences include 90’s brit pop. Then: high school marching bands, Christian rock groups from Michigan, and some of the jazz trio that backed Mr. Rogers.
Then, we descend into deconstructed mythology: gentle, patient strings that collide and separate. Private myths. A little baseball organ. Jesus camp. Suggestive hip movements. Decompartmentalization. Synesthesia. Dogs wearing hats.
See? I’m not even sure what I’m talking about anymore. Wait here while I go back and listen one more time…