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Thing of the Past – Vetiver

FatCat Records

For a young person just moving into a big city, the first few trips into a used music store are intimidating. The staff tsk tsks from behind the Counter of Authority; hep cats tut tut down every aisle. They possess knowledge of music and piercings you do not, so they are superior human beings. They cherish bands so obscure the musicians dont even know they were in them, and you still like Coldplay. The hipsterati at the cafext door are already praising the unreleased and unrecorded basement tapes of these same bands who never existed. Eventually, you realize this is just another way to passively and impotently assert dominance, so theres nothing left to do but cringe. With a single sentence and a brilliant album, Vetiver proves such snobbery is a destructive cultural force:

After all, whats the point of finding these hidden treasures if not to share them?

Thing of the Past is a collection of cover tunes burrowed out of used record stores and elsewheres, then arranged and performed by Andy Cabic and his associates who collectively make up Vetiver. Thing of the Past is an album of transparent beauty, warm and serene, yet flush with raw sincerity. There isnt an unpleasant iota on it, and it possesses a staying power that owes as much to the original songwriters as it does to the performers. No album in recent memory besides Midlakes The Trials of Van Occupanther has affected me so profoundly. While Occupanther still allows me to examine melancholy freely, Thing of the Past makes me feel more like a person. In fact, I am quite positive Roll on Babe, a treasure from the pen of Derroll Adams, was included specifically for me. Though I could make the same case for Vashti Bunyans celestial vocals on Sleep a Million Years. The inclusion of Bunyan strengthens the albums thesis as a relic from the past. Despite three decades of obscurity, which seem to be over, she is vital to the history of folk music, but she is also a direct descendant of John Bunyan. John Bunyan is the author of Pilgrims Progress, one of the most important novels of the seventeenth century, and a Christian text on par with the writings of SKierkegaard.

Vetiver could have kept these songs hidden and secret. Think of how superior they could have felt. But they decided to share these souvenirs and things from the past, a past both recent and far enough away to stir the imaginations of many young people today. If music is the universal language, then its only purpose is to be shared, and hiding it in order to feel elite indicates an absolute misconception. Thing of the Past is not the type of album that comes around every year, or every five years, nor is it the type of album to slide into obscurity. Thing of the Past is not the type of album to remain hidden, nor will the history, poetry, and beauty upon it.


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