Angels of Light
Sing “Other People”—the latest offering from Young God/Angels of Light head Michael Gira—is a lot warmer than its predecessor, the haunting goth-folk masterpiece Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home. The dirt has been wiped almost completely for this release and all of the songs have been produced with an almost radio friendly texture. From the get-go, “Lena’s Song” is inviting and strikingly poppy. I was taken aback by its warm and sunny guitar (sunny in a Michael Gira way), but that’s not to say everything is just dandy; the song is still permeated by heavy feelings about the past. Since I don’t know who Lena is it’s hard to say just what type of feelings, but my money is on nostalgia; “Lena has sung / but she will sing again / beneath a desert sun / in withered skin.”
Speaking of “Lena’s Song,” all of the songs on Sing “Other People” are about people (go figure). Some are or were involved personally in Gira’s life while others are almost mythical figures enmeshed in the shady world of mass media. Guess who “Michael’s White Hands” is about. On other songs it’s hard to figure out where the person in question is (“To Live through Someone” speaks of people in general). Nothing here approaches the same sunshine as “Lena’s Song” but all of the songs are decidedly less cryptic than most of Gira’s back catalogue. “All Souls Rising” was one of my fav songs on Everything Is Good Here so you can see why someone like me may have been put off by this release initially (I’m not a Gira devotee). That song is replete with pounding piano, fun-house harmonica, thudding percussion, shouted chants and yelps and of course Gira’s creepy seesawing vocals. Unsettling indeed, however, there is still some noir to be found here as Gira comes up with a few head turners like “we are wondering if he still eats / we are wondering if we did him wrong,” “your dogs smell like dead things” and “mosquitoes nest his eyes.” But even lyrics like these stick out on the record as if they had been put in to satiate those not expecting such a drastic departure from previous efforts.
The reason I say this is because I sense that there is some happily twisted pop record waiting to come out of Gira. Even a song like “Simon Is Stronger Than Us” where he quips in a venomously raspy voice “and he finally got rid of that interesting bitch / who mocked him in public and treated him like shit” is leaning closer to a normal pop song structure. A whole album of songs like this would be something totally interesting given the track record of its lead man. But I get what Sing “Other People” really is—it’s a tribute album (as Gira has called it himself). It is full of songs he has created for people, some of whom he is obviously fond of, and this explains the not-too-dark execution. But for the next non-tribute album, maybe some flirtation with twisted pop would bring about another recording as captivating as Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home. As it stands, Sing “Other People” is a solid release; fans of Michael Gira will find much to love about searching for the meanings behind these songs and discovering just who they are about.
- Andrew Iliadis
/june 1st 2005/