Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: The Hard Lessons - Arms Forest

(on Quack!Media)


(words: milo)

"See, I don’t see change as a curse. It’s just part of my make-up. Without change the whole thing will just fall apart. I’m not just talking about rock n roll here…I’ve got to keep moving somewhere." – (Neil Young – Nick Kent Interview, 1993)

"Is this not what you expected?" Korin-Louise Visocchi, from "The Memo."

The Hard Lessons singer/guitarist Augie Visocchi, a son of Michigan, a son of Italy, a son of rock n roll, has always looked to Neil Young throughout his musical development. The answers to his ponderings on maintaining integrity in career path, echoing back in silent prayer from Neil to Augie on strung out nights of writing with his now-wife and bandmate Korin-Louise, always leading to chaos; the embrace of healthy chaos, or confidence in the face of the haphazard. It’s meant the true path to complete freedom.

Their 3rd proper release, the flavorful B&G Sides (2008), a four part series of EP’s spanning from softer, fuzzy synth-led ballads, to hand-clapped pop hurrahs, to murky twang to shreddy-indie-rock, augmented the “Neil Young mentality” of scattering out in all directions.
Their second full-length, Arms Forest spurs numerous personal metaphors: reversing the name of former Wayne-State centered apartment complex Forest Arms, it allegorizes the building’s destructive fire in 2006. This leads into lyrics that scrutinize a hypocritical martyrdom – particularly in the face of a “falling empire” like Detroit. These dark themes resist all this apocalypse by promoting things that are “Made to Last,” which leads into the rebirth of, hopefully, our city, but more assuredly, the rebirth of a band; a band that’s not sorry for anything its ever done, with nothing but time on its hands. “No, I don’t have a past to live in yet,” they sing on ‘Tired Straits’, over a moody snaky guitar groove and solemn organ hum’ “and I don’t have a single regret, not yet…”

Year to year, since they started at MSU in 2003, from skyrocketing to the ceiling of local heights by mid 2005 and now being put up in a Dickies-sponsored house for their blog-documented jaunt through SXSW last month, the Hard Lessons have always (and will continue to) change. The album runs the gamut of lo-fi acoustic, shimmery dream-pop spume, piano-pounded builds of anthemic poignancy (“Manoogian Zoo,” “The Memo,”) buzzy bass booms almost-lurching over hard-hit-hip-shaking drums (“Sound The Silent Alarm”) under echoey vocals that waver into newer, fried falsettos and guitars that meld space-rock to metal (“Arms Forest”). No garage rock, no grimy swagger, but still a lingering, ever-passionate blues (the bloodshot, last-call/morning-after ballad “Talk It Over”) – intertwined with more intimate, biographical songs (“Wedding Ring”) and the glitzy dance/rock flamingo-flared, mandolin-led (indirectly-hip-hop inspired) epic, “Roma Termini.” Given a fine touch by engineer Zach Shipps, the album is also notably bolstered by board work from Blanche’s Dave Feeney. Wrapped up nicely by the poppier-pair of the sunny sway of cute-but-endearing “See You Again,” and the sparse-n-spindly to warm-n-explosive “Made To Last.”

“Some things are made to last, I’m capable to heal,” –Augie Visocchi, “Made To Last”

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