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Published: 2005/04/04
by Jesse Jarnow

This Feeling’s Called Goodbye – Brothers Past


I've often heard tell of a ProTools plug-in that filters whatever you run through it and — without changing the pitch — slows down the tempo. I wish I had it. This Feeling’s Called Goodbye, the latest studio effort from Philadelphia’s Brothers Past, is a rich album abounding with creative energy and a keen sense of modern melancholy. But everything is so damn fast. I’m not sure what their hurry is, in particular. Whether they or their fans would cop to jambanddom (probably not, eh?), they’ve certainly cultivated a patient audience attuned to long instrumental explorations. So why does almost everything on This Feeling’s Called Goodbye flit by twice as fast as it needs to?

If you can put up with the breathlessness of it all (or have the aforementioned plug-in), the good news is that This Feeling’s Called Goodbye is a genuinely exciting album to listen to. Using surprisingly supple self-editing skills honed via endless gigging, the BPers have condensed a lot onto the disc. The songs are filled with asides (a Steely Dan-like vocal bridge on "Year of the Horse"), diversions (a calypso/dub breakdown in "Simple Gift of Man" that grinds quickly into metal riffage), and miniature peak after miniature peak (Clay Parnell’s frequent bass bombs on the opening "Leave Your Light On"). The latter quality is both endearing, if — when tied to the speed factor — a wee melodramatic. The mood hovers around that enduring melodically mopey 20something angst of Radiohead, The Cure, and Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd.

At the forefront of This Feeling are the group’s two oldest members: guitarist Tom Hamilton (who penned most of the songs), and keyboardist Tom McKee (whose carefully tweaked textures define its sound). The tunes are either paranoid fantasias or brutally honest dispatches from a life I don’t think I wanna live. "Everyone hears every sound," Hamilton reminds on the opening "Leave Your Light On," "so tiptoe on eggshells when you walk / And cover your mouth when you cum." "I’m gonna go stick my head in the sand," McKee declares on "One Rabbit Race." "Is it too late to call it off?" Hamilton wonders on "Too Late To Call." "I’ve got a letter I’m dying to send you," McKee promises on "Words Like Weapons," "I think it’d just end you." And that’s not to mention a song called "Forget You Know Me." Maybe we’re just lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year (or something), they seem to sing, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna recognize the fact that I share this tiny-ass body of water with you.

Uplifting music this ain't — except maybe in the sense that, hey, we're all making/listening to this music together (which can be powerful) — but it is complex and encompassing, utilizing the studio to powerful effect without dehumanizing the musician-to-musician interplay. From the very first notes of "Leave Your Light On," it’s McKee’s game, as he dodges between the prog-rock flourishes of the intro to ambient drones beneath Hamilton’s vocals, to twinkling dashes he inserts between verses. Elsewhere, when the quartet sheds rock rhythms altogether, such as "Inhale," the delay-loop prelude to "Words Like Weapons," the sonics sound more collaborative. "Weapons" itself is one of the album’s best moments, filled with interlocking beats that echo like the internal gears of a massive clock, its second hand about to spin off its axis.

Perhaps by simple virtue of immersion, the hyperactivity begins to make a little more sense by the end. I can't imagine they wanna live through these emotions (again?) any more than I do. But, then, they're also the dudes who made the choice to put this music into the world to begin with. For all the torment, and all the speed, there's still little communicable catharsis (except maybe in the creative process). Brothers Past have the swagger down just fine. With a little more swing, they could really turn some heads.

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