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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Craig's Brother -- The Insidious Lie

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9/10

Now that I've had an entire year to listen to Craig's Brother's The Insidious Lie, I find I enjoy it even more than when it was first released. It is not absolutely perfect (not many things are), and I can and will articulate its minuscule flaws, but overall, it is a record of considerable depth. Also, literally, it is a record now (and a CD and a download).
Since I have already once reviewed The Insidious Lie, and to also put it in a place of honor with its older brother, Lost at Sea, I will now give the album a track-by-track review.
1. Freedom: If there are doubts that Craig's Brother are back, "Freedom" quashes them.  It's a fun, fast punk song that combines all their work to this point into something fresh and new. Ted's wife sings backup and the band sounds better than ever.  The guitar leads are especially nice.  "Freedom" is also one of the most spiritually bold songs Craig's Brother have recorded, detailing a dying person's joy at entering into the next life.  "This body is done.  I'm primed for a new one," Ted Bond sings, also reminding listeners that "life is a puff of smoke.  One fleeting moment, and it's done."
2. Crutch (This song is only on the physical versions of the album.  You should always get physical): I like that the most spiritual song Craig's Brother have released is immediately followed by one of the saltiest.  "The chemical reaction for an instant asshole: just add alcohol," Ted sings in a portrait of someone with a completely empty life.  The themes of the album can be tied in to every track.  The first and last songs detail the truth (and the final one details the difficulty with it...get to that later), while the ten in the middle discuss deceptions.  The deception central to "Crutch" is that using alcohol as one is no real way to live.  About half of the songs on The Insidious Lie take the fast, punk tempopath, but "Crutch" and several others are just great rock songs.  Some songs are perfect hybrids of both styles.
3. Mistake of Caring: "Mistake of Caring" fits the last sentence of the previous paragraph.  Some nice guitar solos segue the more straight-up rock verses and choruses with a blazing, fast-paced bridge.  The lyrics revolve around a deceptive friend who turns out to be no friend at all, but "Mistake of Caring" is still a pretty feel-good song.  Maybe because the false friend gets ditched at the end.  Sorry to ruin the surprise.  Forget about that sentence.
4. Thousand Yard Stare:  This is one of the most aggressive songs on the album.  "Thousand Yard Stare" is a fast, angry, and compassionate track about the deceptions that lead to wars, and the cost to the men who  fight them, even after they make it home "safely." The bridge, particularly, is one of Craig's Brother's most powerful moments. Ted's wife sings backup on this one, too (she actually appears on close to half of The Insidious Lie's tracks).  You don't hear a lot of guy/girl harmonies in punk music, but after listening to this album, I'd definitely like to hear them more often.
5. Klamath Falls: I love this song.  It's almost like someone tasked a brutally honest punk band to compose a song in the style of Jimmy Buffet.  The deception here is autobiographical in nature.  In "pursuit of the dream," Ted Bond dropped out of college to embark upon the life of a touring musician.  He soon found himself broke and without any prospects, stuck in the middle of nowhere with "a bunch of drunks I can't stand." Unfortunately, these people he can't stand are his best friends...and also his bandmates. I know a lot of people thought this song was too blunt, but I think it is an album standout.
6. The Insidious Lie: The title track breaks down the lie in the "happiness' we can find in our mass consumer culture.  It rages against the fact that we allow this culture to decide upon the things we should want and "need," instead of deciding those things for ourselves. Punk on every level.  Bassist, Scott Hrapoff really jams out here: he owns this song.  Drummer, Heath Konkel, also displays some excellent work, and Glade Wilson, Ted Bond, and everyone else playing guitar on this track, really showcase Craig's Brother's increase in musical skill over the last decade.
7. Party Girl: While not bad, I think this is one of The Insidious Lie's weaker tracks.  It is similar to "Crutch" in theme, though the person here uses not just alcohol as a crutch, but partying in general.  I laughed out loud the first time I heard Ted sing the line, "Let's explore something more than just our pants," but it became grating on successive lessons. The only lyric I don't like on the album.
8. Closure: I think "Party Girl" and "Closure" signify The Insidious Lie's one weak stretch.  I actually enjoy the song, a recording of an old Craig's Brother track, but I don't think it really fits here, except in the idea that the speaker is better off getting closure from the person hindering them.  Though the performances are as top notch as the rest of the album, "Closure" just can't quite escape it's more classic (which doesn't mean better here) Craig's Brother roots.
9. Fallen: The line "When an argument's unfriendly, it's a fight," almost makes me forget the above "pants" line.  This may be the fastest song on the album.  It is certainly one of the deepest, as it discusses the complexities of battling worldviews when they are held by a planet-full of organisms who are flawed to the core.
10. Adaline: Craig's Brother plays a ballad.  The song, which explores the deceptions we wrap ourselves in when we feel lonely or depressed, toes the cheese line.  I think it just comes out on top, thanks to a rocking ending, and a lighthearted piano run that ends the song, and deflates any over-serious feelings.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with being serious, and the final two songs have that in spades.
11. The Problem of Evil: I'm glad Craig's Brother included so many fun tracks on this album to balance out songs like these final two.  The penultimate and final songs are my favorites on the album, but they wouldn't work as well without the lighter moments of "Mistake of Caring" or "Klamath Falls."  "The Problem of Evil" discusses the difficulty of the concept itself, and how being tainted by it makes it even more impossible to solve. It's themes interlock with those of "Fallen," though "The Problem of Evil" takes it to a more epic level, perfectly setting the stage for,
12. The Aaronic Blessing (Peace on Earth): This song is a cry out to God over just about every problem the album has laid out and more.  The Insidious Lie's first song, "Freedom" is kind of like the answer to "The Aaronic Blessing," and provides a cool, circular closure, but I already talked about that one.  This one is quite desperate, but also the most beautiful song Craig's Brother have ever recorded.

By beginning the song with an old rabbi reciting the actual Aaronic Blessing in both Hebrew and English, the song gains a layer of hope that is brutally battered as Ted sings, "Haven't You forgotten Your promises, or at least where the Jordan flows?" (Yeah, that whole verse makes me cry. Thanks, Ted! It's really relate-able stuff.), though God's story is "burned" on his heart. Faith and doubt go back and forth, until the line "How will they see you, if they won't choose to open their eyes," seems to indicate that mankind, purposely blinding himself to the Divine, even as he proposes to fight on the Divine's behalf, has only himself to blame for his problems.  It's a modern Psalm in that it says:
God, you sure have done some awesome stuff for me.  Where are you right now, though?  Everything is terrible.  My enemies are victorious, and you don't seem to be anywhere.  Why have you left me?  Come back and make this right because only You can do it.
Craig's Brother might not have a shot at creating world piece, but they sure can make a great album.

2011 Self-Released
1. Freedom 2:12
2. Crutch 3:04
3. Mistake Of Caring 3:51
4. Thousand Yard Stare 4:03
5. Klamath Falls 3:38
6. Insidious Lie 3:31
7. Party Girl 3:14
8. Closure 3:14
9. Fallen 3:13
10. Adeline 3:29
11. The Problem Of Evil 3:41
12. The Aaronic Blessing (Peace on Earth) 5:15

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