Friday, January 18, 2008

Album Review

A week ago, I had ambitions of reviewing Policia! Policia!. Late as it would be, I wanted to see if I had the chops to write a decent music review after authoring paragraphs of drivel for Dallas Music Guide. But after three straight posts about the same album’s remix, I figured a review would be overkill and was ready to abandon the idea. Truthfully, Policia! Policia! hadn’t made much of an impact on me anyway, until yesterday during a trip to Wichita Falls. I wanted to hear the album again before I listened to the remix, so I brought it along. Maybe it was my rented Four Runner’s superior audio system, but the album finally crossed that blessed line between listenable and infectious.

What happened is I finally started listening to the words. As a music-listener, I’m very much an infant with letter blocks. I’ll build forts or castles or factories with them, but very rarely do I actually notice the alphabet in front of me. The first time I heard Policia! Policia!, I related to the music spatially, noticing the couple of times the songs would drop into a higher gear and the gravity of the riff took them over. The musical result was jarring, surprising, pleasant. Relating to the music literarily, though, adds a new dimension.

Anyone who heard Red Monroe’s debut, Meeting on a Train, or even their self-titled EP, noticed the band made a drastic swerve with Polica! Policia!. The previous sound was one of finesse, favoring sounds that surrounded the listener, to the point of eschewing a catchier take of the song “Althea” for a simpler one awash with distant background noise. I thought Red Monroe’s music would get spacier, floatier, more ambient with each album. By stark contrast, Polica! Policia! finds the band sharper nearer-at-hand. The lyrics have gone from ominous reverie to naked palpability. The approach now resembles Flannery O’Conner’s terrifying Southern gothic. “She waits on a tidal wave” becomes “taking you from your parent’s basement is like trying to peel flesh from a stone.” The former, from Meeting on a Train is dreamier, but makes more sense. The latter, from Policia! Policia!, is much more tangible, but cryptic.

Personally, I think Dallas finally got to Red Monroe. DFW’s attractive real-estate prices and sunny weather is supposed to make it play nice. But Dallas is mean. It railroads over the poor and chases off the homeless. In the words of Deep Ellum graffiti, Dallas hearts cash and little else. Red Monroe says as much: “The difference is Southern businesses will kill you then call your kids to collect.” Policia! Policia! hits closer to the bone with all its flesh and factories and knee high boots. The album’s characters are realer too: fickle, indecisive, with minds full of sex and murder. If the lyrical narrative is befuddling, it’s also near. It’s funny how the stuff of the day-to-day that rubs up against your arms, hits you in the chest, and gets in your eyes can be the most confusing, most frightening, most imposing.

The value of Policia! Policia! is that it fairly evokes this abutment of Dallas and myself. State fairs, corrupt government, the desperately impoverished, the unimaginably rich, they all exist side-by-side in this surreal trailhead called Dallas. Red Monroe is confronting the joy and the junk of the place at eye level. That’s the quality that makes me feel a new solidarity with the material and that, to me, is the chief aim of experiencing music.


Anonymous said...

Great review of a great record

Lel said...