Boduf Songs: This Alone Above All Else In Spite Of Everything
Under the Spire

In keeping with the intimate tone of the material on his fourth Boduf Songs full-length, Mathew Sweet hews to an uncluttered recording setup that includes a single microphone and a sparse array of instruments (piano, bass, drums, electric guitar, electronics). The songs' primary focal point, his multi-tracked voice functions, oxymoronically, like a loud murmur whispering its cryptic lyrics into your ear. Gentle piano backing acts as a counterpoint to the cruelty and despair of the words in “Bought Myself a Cat O'Nine” (“My hammer feels the urge to nail you to the ground … How did this island home become a sinking ship”), even if the hammers of an upright piano striking strings—the first sound one hears on the album—tie the words and music together. Despite its dour lyrical content (“The living dead have risen up from muddy graves with bloody mouths”), “Decapitation Blues” unleashes a goodly amount of mid-song energy in its bruising bass-and-drum attack.

Lyrically speaking, the material is hardly brimming with uplift and joy (titles alone, such as “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void,” suggest as much), and instrumentally the songs are generally downcast too. Another downside is that Sweet's vocal delivery is too unvarying and hence grows monotonous over the course of the album. Much of it exudes a depressive quality that's intensified by the slow plod with which most of the songs unfold (with its animated drum pattern driving it forward, “We Get on Slowly” is the welcome exception to the rule). It's one of those raw, four-in-the-morning albums (Lou Reed's Berlin comes to mind as well) where one's thoughts are at their darkest and it's best to keep the razor blades safely locked away.

April 2011