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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

The Bother
The Night Bleeds Gold (CD)

There is a certain mood that William Rahilly of The Bother brings to the table. On the surface, the songs are very well constructed, acoustic guitar driven little folk nuggets. But there is just that little extra effort that differentiates the songs from similar stuff. There are real layers of thought and calculation in the music.

I'm doing the metaphorical equivalent of grasping at straws here, but I'd like to pretend for a moment that The Bother has been shrunk to elemental dimensions, say like an atom or something. So, let's try build Mr. Rahilly from the inside out. At its nucleus, you will find folk music that combines the strengths of woodsy balladeers like Iron and Wine's Sam Beam with unusual instrumentation and storytelling in the vein of Grandaddy and Badly Drawn Boy. William crosses his heart with heartfelt chords. The second layer out is nearly all empty space, that atmospheric sound of well being and confidence that lets him create structure and tension. Sometimes the space comes forth through keyboards or strings, and sometimes it manifests itself in long drawn out guitar riffs or piano chords. I know too much is always made of the "space between the notes" but respect and restraint often create good dynamics in songs. The third layer of our elemental model are the electrons flinging themselves around. These are the wacky sounds and riffs like those on "Our Nameless", "With Legs of Water" that are as much psych Beatles and Rolling Stones as they are goofy Pavement. A wiggly keyboard line and plunking banjo. Some strange background vocals, an idle whistle. Distraught little shakers and guitar swells. I dig the semi-random way all these items create both cohesion and extension.

Well, I didn't pay that good attention in high school chemistry so I know this analogy is probably all wacked out. But you get the picture. The bottom line is that every track on here is made up of interesting and varied layers... I listened to it perhaps four or five times and I still feel different about the songs every time. Songs like "Not A Day" and "Drops of the Evening" do indeed have a pastoral Leonard Cohen feel, as is mentioned in The Bother's press sheet. But William's predilection for the strange and arcane makes the songs all the more interesting and moody. I love that lone harmonica and wispy slide guitar on the closing track, "Blind / Invisible" over which his voice recalls Jeff Tweedy. On that note, I think a good comparison would be indeed to Wilco, who seem to be able to keep their alt-country faces straight while indulging in frequent penchants for white noise and quirky samples. This vertiginous nature, the ability to shift gears musically while staying true to a core course of sound, is a trait that is admirable, though it may not sell CDs. There is no question that certain songs on The Bother's debut CD border on absolute greatness, but it is just a question of whether or not the indie music buying public will be brave enough to recognize that and go out to the store (or on the web) and buy it. Yes, YOU, you music buying public person. I am challenging you to get off your great big Superbowl watching duff (or hockey watching duff in my case) and buy some different music for a change. Come on and put it all out there, dig up those quarters, dimes and nickels from the back of that sofa cushion. Your ears may thank you.

- review by BY (1.21.04)        

Three Ring Records
805 Hayes, Apt. E
San Francisco, CA 94117

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