Listener is available on iTunes.
by Walter Price
As far as the history of concept albums go, it’s been hit or miss. There have been the great ones from Arcade Fire, (The Suburbs), Hüsker Dü (Zen Arcade), and The Kinks (Are The Village Green Preservation Society). And then some weird, stinkers from the likes of The Flaming Lips, Kanye, and Tori Amos. Then, out of nowhere, you could have an album that brilliantly transcends anything you’ve imagined/heard before.
An album of ten examinations of inventors and/or their inventions. Uh, yeah. Oral histories wrapped in noisy rock concoctions. Kind of like if a less stern Henry Rollins was a history teacher and his lessons were soundtracked by the experimental versions of 90s alt-rock. Covering brief histories of Levis Strause, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, to name just a few. I know it may sound a bit odd on paper but it is an interesting, if not trippy, way to examine the past’s influences on the now.
To give you an example of what this is all about, the band’s Dan Smith provided a synopsis for each track, here is the one for track one, “Pent Up Genes”, “As I started reading about Levi Strauss’ life for inspiration I had already made up my mind about a few things I knew about him. Mostly I knew he invented work jeans and that Levis, the company, is a huge clothing manufacturer and I wasn’t sure if it would make a good song or if he would be a good person to write about.
“Sewing is an interest of mine. I like making things with my hands and I like trying different types of materials to make the ideas I come up with. I have a couple sewing machines and I like using them to repair clothes or to sew new things. In a nutshell, the song is about making things and making them well, and the blind confidence, or open fragility, it takes to make something up to par with your own set of standards.
“There are some nods to the idea of making clothes in the song “we’ll go on to other places, hold it loose. sewing us together, folded over, feeding the machine.” and “riveted into place, overlapped. the best days of our lives are the ones we’re alive“. About the idea of doing something well.
“We live in a really cool time where ideas can be shared quickly and efficiently, but it’s a super disposable time especially with made goods and art, and I like the idea of buying or making things to last and that have a timeless quality, when possible; and aren’t made just to throw away as the next fad comes around. There’s a line in the song that says “We are each others, we are hope, you are. even if the voices carry. still making it like they used to,” meaning, we are in this thing together on the planet, our cities, our houses, and we can do better with the things we make and what we vote on with our dollars.
“Levi Strauss and his wife didn’t have children, and so they decided to open an orphanage, and that struck me as something really kind. They weren’t from the US and they started making and selling clothes and built an empire and wanted to help their community. They were people that made a difference by seeing what was needed around them and doing something, all the while trying to better themselves. These were some outside observations that I thought were interesting, but also I have no clue really about their lives.”
You can go the Listener’s website for a full track by track of Being Empty: Being Filled, and you can check out track one below. Listening to this album just once would be an injustice, dig in.
Dan Smith – Kris Rochelle – Jon Terrey
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