This project’s debut release is extremely difficult to listen to for two separate but related reasons. First, there’s the subject matter: the death by cancer of songwriter Freddy Ruppert’s mother in the titular Louisiana town. While death and guilt are hardly unfamiliar topics in popular music, few artists have ever made it so visceral, so personal, or so confrontational as when a broken-voiced Ruppert shrieks “I should’ve spent more time in the hospital” on “Regrets” or breathlessly pleads on “Song for Donna Ruppert” that “I wish the sky would crack and the light would shine down/And give you a miracle because God knows you’ve said a million prayers.” This isn’t the romanticized abstraction of goth or even the excessively gritty death imagery of some industrial bands, but a painfully human portrait of family in crisis. The second thing that makes this hard to listen to is the music itself. Mirroring the rapid mood swings that accompany grief, the songs here can range from the deceptively bouncy analog electronics of “Bedridden and Dancing” to the to the distorted shrieking – both electronic and vocal – of “Psalm 88.” Often, sudden unexpected shifts occur even in the middle of the songs themselves; “God and Cancer” starts slow, with Ruppert wailing hollowly over subtle electronic whirrs, but then erupts with squalls of feedback. Even the extreme noise of Merzbow or early Controlled Bleeding can become soothing at a low enough volume, but because Ruppert’s songs are short and full of unexpected sonic dichotomies, you can never relax completely into the soft piano or string moments without bracing yourself for the blast of screeching distortion just around the corner. As difficult as it is to hear, however, this is also one of the most rewarding albums I’ve ever forced myself to listen to all the way through. Ruppert has stripped away every possible bit of pretension and affectation from his songwriting, leaving only his raw emotional wounds. Few artists have the guts to be this honest.
Go to www.thissongisamess.com for more information.
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