consonant cd

consonant - debut cd
a rockin' literary critical analysis
by Sheri Hausey


Clint Conley's consonantal Bliss

      How can we know? What can we know? Isn't the experiential data of our physical interactions the ultimate deceiver? Is life then simply a visceral farce that alternates between the active moment and emotion tinged memory plays? In his first full scale recording of new material since the untimely (1983) dissolution of Boston's post-punk/art-thrashing/pioneering "Mission of Burma", Clint Conley, with an inspired and intricate musicianship that seemingly denies any such hiatus could have occurred, takes on this conundrum of relationship and creates an emotion driven roller coaster of songs that sucks the air right out of you just before slamming you back in your seat.

      Indeed, Clint reasserts his musical creativity, puts down his bass, grabs his guitar and takes center stage as never before through songwriting even more subtly skilled than that of his twenty something self. In his new band's self-titled debut, "consonant" with Chris Brokaw (Come, The New Year, Codeine) on guitar, Winston Braman (Fuzzy, The Count-Me-Outs) on bass, Matt Kadane (The New Year, Bedhead, Silkworm) on drums, Clint utilizes an harmonically evocative sound and structural composition that sinks, swells, speeds head-on, and treads lightly beneath his own lyrics and the poetry/prose of Holly Anderson's offerings. His music then underscores an enveloping emotional terrain in a bold and uncompromising manner as this male/female aspect/voice blends together to create a unique contemporary aesthetic that is both ground breaking in its own perspective and leaves the listener gasping in wonder that "all the things that we've forgotten scream for help in our dreams."

      Moreover, Clint makes Holly's landscape of human desire his own by leaving her voice largely intact while manipulating phrase arrangements to heighten emotion. In this way Clint channels "her" voice into "his". Likewise, Clint intuitively finds the right phrase/riff/hook that underscores the song's rising/falling pathos and maximizes Holly Anderson's already achingly vivid voice. Whereas her poetry often culminates with an image of resonance, Clint rearranges the more emotionally charged end phrases/images. Thus her isolated "I" of an original piece entitled "Romance" morphs into Clint's "I" in "Who Touches You Now?" who "sat in this dusty square for a long time" pondering the title question. Clint uses both this initial question and then takes the "Who was always ravenous? Who was always in need?" from the end part of the piece for a repeated insistent choral element. Thus to the initial rhetorical urgency he adds an insistent gradually building musical undertow beneath that crests in the accusatory tonal shift of this one-two rhetorical punch and then eddies into the reflective "Maybe we happened and maybe we didn't at all."

      The overall structure of these thirteen songs also pulls the listener into the ongoing dramatic exchanges through both the arrangement of the tonally varied songs and each individual song's shifting pitches. The majority of songs involve various levels of time recollected memory plays (always blissful in those clear eyed years - "Blissful") that often resonate with differing levels of dissatisfaction when juxtaposed against a depleted present time (grief was an unknown then/"Blissful"); and then, SUDDENLY, one is jolted forcefully from the afterglow of drowning images (in the weed choked bit of bay - "3 a.m.") into an active fast paced narrative (Stop, take a sec, look around - "The Kiss"). Such an alternating structure reveals advanced artistry at work that deserves further elucidation.

      Clint opens this cycle with Holly's "Blissful" in light, ringing tones that are verbally undercut by the recollection of physical bliss with "damaged walls, paper flowers, borrowed beds", and the slower deeper ring that embraces a "chilly, half-empty room" -- ah, the transitory nature of "Bliss" that fills us still with a spent wistfulness. This "Blissful" past abuts Clint's present time frustrated longings in "Call it L---". Holly's reflections give way to Clint's conversational ponderings which rise into insistent rhetoric: "what's that mean? what the hell is 'technically'? ...Who am I when you're alone?". His stressed strumming heightens the irritated iterations of "Call if love, love, love, love, love" and thus undercuts the entire construct of the word and all its myriad connotations.

      In the exact middle of this cycle is "Post-Pathetic", an extensive present tense narrative in which Clint's voice and rhetorical demands are predominant -- "Say it happened/Grant me that one favor." On either side of this central hinge a certain type of symmetry is achieved as the varied songs spread out in a musical diptych. Clint further enhances this reflective/active interaction by framing the end of this relational song cycle with a voice perspective that inverts/interlocks the two opening songs (H,C,H,C, so to speak). The twelfth song, "What a Body Can Do", like "Blissful ", recollects moments between co-mingled bodies- - "chasing your/young bones was/a form of bliss/ravishing them too." The "way to live in our skins again" of "Blissful" has become "the lips and hips and arms" that "teach us what a body can do". Furthermore, Clint's orchestrations of driving momentum build and build taking over the emotional thrust of the piece only to subside, build again and end in sonic resonance.

      As Holly's penultimate memory play is more narrative in nature, Clint's final narrative"Perfect", almost totally devoid of his earlier rhetoric and one of the few songs to utilize the more objective he/she over the first person perspective, is a blending of evocative images that linger from unrequited longing -- "lemony yellow caroms/ratty capris ...lovely camisole." They float in a soft sonic current that builds to a rushing current at this "perfect day's" (and song cycle's) end -- "and his heart goes sick/with the certainty of hurt." This sonic swell sweeps "Perfect" and its myriad connotations into oblivion; except for one perhaps, the idea that these thirteen songs are very thoroughly accomplished, indeed, quite perfected.

      In every way then "consonant" is a an artistic triumph. Clint has called forth hauntingly beautiful and kick-ass compositions articulated through a unique voice perspective. The final notes evoke the hope that his Muse remain restless and relentless so Clint will continue to drive us all in the "van screaming fast 90 down 90" from "That Boston Life" into the future.

1. Blissful (Anderson/Conley)
2. Call It L--- (Conley)
3. Buckets of Flowers, Porno Mags (Anderson/Conley)
4. Who Touches You Now? (Anderson/Conley)
5. John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" (Anderson/Conley)
6. Not Like Them (Conley)
7. Post-Pathetic (Anderson/Conley)
8. That Boston Life (Anderson/Conley)
9. 3 a.m. (Anderson/Conley)
10. The Kiss (Conley)
11. Details of Attraction (Anderson/Conley)
12. What a Body Could Do (Anderson/Busted Statues/Conley)
13. Perfect (Conley)

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