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September 25, 2006 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Absentee, Schmotime

What grabs you immediately is Dan Michaelson’s voice. When someone says a voice is gravelly, they mean it sounds like this, except not as good. Deep and gorgeous, he sounds as though he lives off single malt whiskeys, Gauloise cigarettes and heartache. It’s the prefect foil to Melinda Bronstein’s ethereal, winsome tones and the rich and melodic country tinged sounds that Absentee trade in. Reminiscent of what might have happened if Simon and Garfunkel decided to employ a full time band, asked the Ronettes to help out with some cute shoop-do-wop backing, threw a lap steel in just for fun and spent several months picking the brains of Stuart. This is a wry, knowing and gently despairing paean to all the nasty things people in love do to each other. Dan sings like it’s an effort to even stay awake, delivering lines like “Darling, you’re no oil painting and I’m no Michaelangelo, and darling, we should never have children”, with all the casual cruelty he can sum up. This studied boredom of course belies the intensely documented and lyrical misery that pervades this album, revealed perhaps best in ‘You Try Sober’ which uses the old Belle & Sebastian trick of concealing knuckledusters within velvet gloves to turn an upbeat sixties’ girl-pop call-and-response standard into a familiar heartbreak of antagonism and the harrowing fact that love is never equal in a relationship. “I want to tell you that I’ll never leave again, but then I pass out.” Indeed. Final track ‘Treacle’ provides the needed relief, turning a mournful country hymn into the one song that offers any hope of love or redemption, fading out gently with the acknowledgement “but oh my love you get sweeter every day.” The kind of album that’s easy and beautiful to listen to, until you realize what you’re listening to. And by then it’s far too late, and you have to press Play again anyway.


About the Author ()

BORN WITH a cigarette in one hand and The Trial in other, Bea meant to go on as she started. Music wasn’t her first love, but her first love ended in a fight over rightful ownership of a Velvet Underground LP and the kitchen knife, so she chose the kinder option and stuck with it. In her spare time she enjoys casting aspersions, skulking, and making sweeping statements. She never checks her facts: figures it’s a way to live a little, to have arguments with people, then meet them. She’s currently writing a collection of short stories inspired by Schopenhauer’s manifesto of suffering and the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. When it gets published, she’s pretty sure that boy will want to hold her hand.

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