BAD HISTORY MONTH – OLD BLUES (EXPLODING IN SOUND RECORDS)
Old Blues, the second album from Sean Sprecher under the Bad History Month moniker picks at old wounds, looking to unfurl how each scar came to define the body it now covers. It is a furtive attempt to uncouple the links of the destructive chains to childhood. A shambling musical odyssey through sadness and the darkest of humour that stabs forth into the world.
It has been a while since I have been completely stumped by an album. Old Blues is an odd record. Not odd as in quirky, but genuinely different to most albums you will hear this year. It is shrink-wrapped with a deviance that could only come from the nonlinear thinking of a singular mind; a map to navigate with no compass, and all the better for it.
Sprecher forges an armour of humour against creeping darkness, battling the strangeness of the times with a record that is stranger. He also holds a seemingly unequivocal ambivalence to expectations. The opening track – and lead single – ‘Waste Not’ deserves its own essay, all 13 confounding minutes of it. Its menacing creep and lazily slurred vocals build to a cacophony of distant bomb blasts which possess an inexplicable draw. Like a car crash, you can’t fight the urge to witness the devastation that has been wrought with your own eyes. The track locks into a groove reminiscent of early Modest Mouse as pinched harmonics bounce off jagged guitars and as Sprecher sings “It’s nice and quiet here, and nothing can touch me” it explodes into Cymbals Eat Guitars levels of indie euphoria. Finally, as the noise dies down and the smoke clears, we see it was only fireworks after all; just another of life’s tricks, a dark night of the soul of our own creation.
As Bad History Month, Sprecher creates an almost uncomfortable closeness, not unlike that found on early Arab Strap records, but the nature of most tracks is too freewheeling to be defined. His lyrics are as key to proceedings as the music and acoustic guitar lines follow his words like a lost dog longing for a place to sleep. Comparisons could be drawn to the late, great David Berman and nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ as he sings “I just want to fuck anyone who wants me”. It is a line that shares in the same crushingly lonely sentiment expressed in Berman’s ‘Maybe I’m The Only One For Me’ (“If no one’s fond of fucking me / Maybe no one’s fucking fond of me”). Sprecher, not unlike Berman, is a sympathetic ear for the tormented, all too familiar with “hiding out, dodging dread, alone in bed, with the company of endless TV”. Through his songs, he is digging a tunnel towards the light that keeps collapsing. The supporting beams just can’t take the weight. However, through weaponising his dry humour he finds the hope to keep on digging regardless.
Old Blues cannot be fully consumed on first listen, it is far too unwieldy and disorientating for that. Like the morning after a night of fevered dreams, you are left with only the most harrowing and elated moments. But the record’s strange pull will make you listen again, and again, and again until you too inhabit Bad History Month’s little world. It is an album for jokers and deep thinkers, the anxious and those looking for an escape. If you like your humour dark, worldviews brutally honest and nerves a little on edge then this might just be the record for you, and you’ll unlikely come across anything similar anytime soon.
Old Blues is released on 24th April through Exploding In Sound records.
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