Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Inclusive Or's Cocktails in Purgatory on LP

I'm coming up on six months in New York. The leaves are starting to turn color and I soon I will experience my first Syracuse winter. Syracuse gets more snowfall than any other major US city, by the way, so I'm about to have an adventure. Texas summers and Colorado winters have toughened me up over the last few years, so I'm not that worried, but I have planned a bit of traveling over the next three or four months--Toronto next month, CES in Vegas after the New Year as usual. So I'll be dealing with huge piles of snow on a fairly regular basis. Outside of that, I plan to burrow here in Salt City. Fortunately I have a ton of new music to review.

While that last paragraph meanders a bit, it's to make a point--I still have a bunch of vinyl to review from local Syracuse record labels L.R.S, bettyElm and Aux. I've been here six months, and I still haven't finished. I've been listening to most of these records, and I dig the overwhelming majority of them and have played most of them repeatedly. This album here, Inclusive Or's Cocktails in Purgatory, is a fine example of an LP that was likable at first and has since grown into something more rewarding and substantial.

I was reminded of this clever little album with lots of hidden depth when I was shopping at The Sound Garden, the local LP store here in Armory Square. They had Cocktails in Purgatory in the LP New Release section and I thought to myself, "New release? I don't feel so bad for not having reviewed it yet. It's still new!" But no, this album came out in 2014. Should I even bother?

In a word, yes. I should bother. What makes this indie band so intriguing is the slow and deliberate way this album unfolds. The first two or three songs are straightforward indie rock songs, a little rough and ragged and delivered with earnest energy from a band with electric guitars and bass guitars and drums and even a little keyboard action for low-level textures. I don't want to use words like ordinary or typical, but this is the type of music that makes you nod your head once or twice and acknowledge "Yeah, this is pretty good."

Then the band starts to stretch. While Trevor Grant's hoarse and jagged yet somehow whimsical voice remains a constant throughout the album--anchoring Inclusive Or's garage band aesthetic, the arrangements simultaneously focus and vary. "Inclusive Or" is a bouncy '80s track that almost sounds like The Knack, while "Scherzo" has the same fluid power of Green Day in their least self-obsessed incarnation. That song and its rock ballad follow-up, "Eudaimonia," feature a huge, endearing chunk of Hammond organ that's almost poignant. "Cured!" is a thrift-store hymnal, with Grant backed up by guitar and a strange grinding sound in the background--it's melancholy and desperate and ultimately hilarious in its honesty. ("Getting drunk off the blood of Christ/Isn't it nice?")

Sure the album is a couple of years old, but the Syracuse music scene is tight and close and these guys are still playing around town, and they're playing some of these songs. Something tells me they're great live, so I might try to check them out soon--if I don't go into hibernation for the winter, that is.

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