24 July 2009

jamming: Derek Webb- Stockholm Syndrome

1. Opening Credits
2. Black Eye
3. Cobra Con

4. Freddie, Please
5. The Spirit v. The Kick Drum

6. What Matters More
7. The State
8. The Proverbial Gun
9. I Love/Hate You
10. Becoming a Slave
11. Jena & Jimmy
12. Heaven
13. What You Give Up to Get It
14. American Flag Umbrella

Derek’s newest foray into the world of electronic music comes as a slight departure from the Nashville rock of his last record (Ringing Bell) and the alternating protest folk-country (Mockingbird, She Must and Shall Go Free) and Wilco-inspired experimentation (I See Things Upside Down). It seems he will assassin down quite a new avenue with this new sound and reach a few ears not previously accessible, while loosing some interest in the dorm room, three-chord acoustic set. As far as sound goes, this little mockingbird must have been hanging close to Beck and Flaming Lips of late, as evidenced on the first two full tracks (Black Eye & Cobra Con). Spirit vs. Kick Drum christens the new Western holy trinity of Vending Machine, Jury of Peers, & Kickdrum, Amen, amidst a Cake-like bass line and what I can’t shake as a Primitive Radio Gods-like sample.

Besides the mere (but, at times, delightful) aesthetics, there seems to be quite enough content on the record to embrace, alienate, or at best spark conversation. The show-stopper (and perhaps album ban-er) is the track that asks, “What Matters More? With a Campolo-esque use of sh*t in one verse, this track has generated the expected outrage of squeamish listeners. Scandalous for Christian radio stations that claim family friendliness before cruciform truth, but I digress. The territory being explored by Webb on sexuality and prejudice is intriguing if a listener can suspend the very judgment lampooned (a la Freddy Please- about the pastor of the sectarian Baptist church in the Midwest). A firsthand example of this, is a conversation I had with a friend and classmate recently. She admitted her usual liberal bias and advocacy of LBGT groups. While some of the sting of this song (for Fundamentalists) could be welcomed with a nod of approval and a fist pump by someone like her, she reacted rather differently. She confided, “Yeah it made me really consider what really matters more to me? Do I place so much emphasis on my advocacy that I am just as guilty of forgetting about other injustices, perhaps more major and globally relevant?”

While you may tire of Derek’s shtick of polemic and relishing of the role of provocateur, when you stop and honestly assess his content, artistry, and ingenuity, you have to come away both unsettled and excited. It’s crazy some times how such disorienting good news, some might even say gospel, may have an Explicit Lyrics label.

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