Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Album Review:Grant Hart – The Argument


    Grant Hart, a central member of the seminal alternative rock group Hüsker Dü, returns with a bold expansive double album The Arguement inspired by John Milton's 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost. The poem is based on events of the Old Testament, telling the tale of the fall of man; following Adam and Eve, their temptation by Satan and the resulting expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Hart has been working on his solo career over the last decade or so, following the break up of Hüsker Dü in the late eighties and Nova Mob, which he fronted through the ninties, and has been steadily releasing albums under his own name since then, including collaborations with Godspeed You! Black Emporor.
    Grant is no stranger to double albums, with Hüsker Dü's second album Zen Arcade being widely regarded as their defining work, outstripping the scope and ambition of the average hardcore punk band of the day. He also went on to release another double album, Last Days of Pompeii, with Nova Mob in the 1990s, though The Arguement might be the biggest and most ambitous concept album he has attempted to put together, suitably grandiose for its subject matter.
    Whilst still mantaining many of the rock sensibilities his last few solo albums have displayed, this is an altogether more chalenging and experimental affair. Out of Chaos starts of with disconcerting almost-meodies just about falling together as a backing for Hart to calm speak of how the 'Heaven and the Earth rose up in chaos' before the following track Morningstar, a more straight forward rock song, really kicks things off. Letting Me Out is energetic and upbeat. The optimistic line 'There's a blue sky waiting for me' rings out above a rock and roll progression strummed out on acoustic guitars over a rolling tom drum rhythm. Elsewhere, (It Was A) Most Disturbing Dream is filled with a messy glam rock swagger straight from the early seventies whilst on I Will Never See My Home Hart deploys ghostly synthesizers to underpin his bleak lyrics, 'I am looking to escape/From this desloted hellscape/to a place I've never known/I must carry on alone'.
    A classical feel is given throught the instrumentation, altough the classic band set up is at the centre, there are organs used throughout, along with a zither and string sectionsmaking certain the album never lets itself get pinned down to one style. The instrumental passages of the apocalyptic War on Heaven, feature thundering drums alongside wailing sirens noisy guitars and gunfire and military radio chatter filling in the background and the strange ukelele lead Underneath the Apple Tree, sounds more inoccent and jovial than it seems, even containing a kazoo solo, juxtaposing its innocent musicality with the point of view of the devil in the form of the tempting snake.
    There is a big sixties pop and rock influence throughout The Arguement, Golden Chain shows this not only in the songwriting, but also in the authentic production. The song is built around a simple grooving bassline and with the addition of its accompanying backing vocals and primal beat, it sounds like a leftover song from Jefferson Airplaine's Surrealistic Pillow period. The album displays Grant's understanding and admiration for this era on other tracks, from the bluesy shuffle of Sin to the retro rock beat of I Am Death, as Hart is at his most theatrical with his lyrical delivery, declaring 'I Am Death/I Am Fear' as hounds bark vicously behind him.
    Coming across as a kind of alternative rock musical, with Grant playing all the characters, taking on some of the larger than life rock 'n' roll attitude of 70's David Bowie in the process. Though it is a long record, with its twenty tracks coming in at just over 74 minutes, dealing with such hefty subject matter helps justify the length. Its the kind of record you rarely see from an artist this far into their career, you imagine he made for himself, but fans of his work will find a lot to admire on this release. You may not follow the album's wild narrative but The Argument channels a history of music through a keen ear for a simple melody and great song writing. What could've easily become an indulgent and bloated record is instead adventurous and creative, even for those that are less interested in the albums biblical allusions. 

Originally posted on figure8magazine.co.uk

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