There is a soft, sensuous beauty in sadness. The poets who crafted
the Bible even knew it as they claimed "a sad face, is
good for the heart of a man." Sam Jacobs not only understands
this sentiment, but revels in it. His band, The Flying Change,
fully explores this tenet on their most recent release Pain Is
A Reliable Signal. The band churns out songs that are heavy with
sadness and melancholy, running the gamut between low alt. country
tunes and noisy near-rock. While the music is beautiful and soothing,
Jacobs' voice is sometimes slightly off-key, the dissonance adding
a tension to these fine songs that makes them even more memorable.
The tunes on Pain Is A Reliable Signal invoke many influences
without being directly pointed
Nick Cave, John Prine,
Mojave 3, and even, at times, a mellow Neil Young.
The album starts off with the slow, low "Broken Bow" which
sets the tone for the record. The song is built on acoustic guitar
and Jacobs' voice, backed by reverb-heavy piano, low drums, and ethereal
steel guitar. "Broken Bow" builds the hope inside the listener
that this whole record will be very Mojave 3-esque, with a touch of
Nick Cave thrown in for good measure. "The Mayo Clinic"
maintains the same low groove with some added drums and a nice rhythm
that rolls along, highlighted by pizzicato strings. "Dirty White
Coats" offers up commentary on the state of the modern world
backed by mandolin, strings, and beautiful backing vocals, sounding
a bit like quieter Leonard Cohen in its presentation. "If
You See Something" lightly works in a bit of 60s' psychedelic
pop style and then the album takes a turn to the noisy, more raucous
side, as "The Ways That We Destroy Ourselves" adds in distorted
guitars and trumpets with a throbbing drum rhythm that pushes the
sound to eleven. "Don't Look Away" works in some synthesizer
bleeps and a wild rumpus in the beat before the magnificent "Burning
A Horse" brings things back down to a quiet, reflective moment.
The album finishes up with the quiet solitude of "The Northern
Bay", a song with more danger, vision, beauty, and aching than
most modern records hold in their entirety.
Not only are the songs on Pain Is A Reliable Signal well written
and emotionally charged (albeit in a rather down-played fashion),
but they are very well produced. Robert L. Smith and Paul
Brill (a master of gloomy Americana of his own sort) have taken
the songs of The Flying Change and created a musical palette that
is very evocative and cinematic. The songs carry the mind from a stark
desert landscape to the bustle of an urban center, and back to the
peace of the country. Jacobs has done a wonderful job of writing songs
that are highly personal, but also tell stories in a way that Paul
Simon would be proud of, and putting them all together in a wildly
delicious package of aural bliss.
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