- Thursday, September 21, 2017
- 8:00 PM–11:00 PM
- Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium
- $20 public, $5 w/ Calvin ID
Natalie Mering—the resonant voice and creative mind behind Weyes Blood—creates music that is of two minds, rife with unreconciled sonic and conceptual juxtapositions. Old, familiar sounds of pianos, acoustic percussion and strings are seemingly disturbed by utterly modern undercurrents of electronic noise, synthesizers and found-sound splices, all with the operatic lilt of Mering’s unusually captivating and sometimes haunting voice presiding.
Front Row Seat to Earth, the second full-length from Weyes Blood, bears witness to a “theatrical detachment” that the artist has perceived in the disconnected ways in which human beings have come to observe the world. This detachment is most prominently mediated by the near-ubiquity of technology and social media. Cleverly, the album gives the listener a “front row seat” to the drama of certain mass-issues facing humanity, most notably climate change, while simultaneously reserving that seat for close examination of the album’s meta-issue: the human habit of viewing real life issues through various lenses of digital simulation.
“Generation Why” aptly captures this type of distanced relationship, as it relates to the impending disasters occurring gradually beyond the scope of LED screens:
“Goin’ to see the end of days
I’ve been hanging on my phone all day And the fear goes away”
These lyrics seem to honor the legacy of the band’s namesake, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, a novel that captured the unreconciled juxtaposition between the transcendent beauty of religious belief and the ways in which it can haunt those who try to run from it. “Generation Why” points to a similar double-bind at the core of Front Row Seat to Earth: human beings are more connected with each other than ever before, yet the means of this seemingly enhanced connection are cultivating an attitude that blatantly ignores the slyly catastrophic destruction of the planet.
The chorus of “Generation Why” is a tongue-in-cheek yet darkly prophetic comment on the critical dearth of attention that is exposed in the song:
While clearly a jab at a popular teen slogan taken from a Drake song, the lyrics also point to a grim, unintended question found by twisting the phrase—If we, as human beings, claim to desire the most of our experience, to suck the marrow out of life, then why are we recklessly destroying, by our inattention, the one “life” we have, which is planet Earth.
“Diary,” while employing the controlling metaphor of a dysfunctional relationship, depicts a moment of introspective realization on the part of a selfish partner, coupled with a plea for a renewed relationship, for a future. Within the album’s context, however, this scenario can be read as the narrator’s realization of the destructive selfishness they have exhibited in their relationship with the planet:
“I stand apart from the rest
I now must confess
I play a selfish game
Only I'm the one to blame
I have squandered my mind Got rid of that dream of mine And now you gotta leave Baby take pity on me
We can leave all the pain behind
Gettin’ rid of that vice of mine”
The song’s narrator admits that “the rest” of humanity is foregoing their proper confession. They are yet locked into the “theatrical detachment” that the album portrays. Still, even with the imminent end acknowledged and the blame accepted, a pleading hope, an unreconciled apocalyptic serenity, persists on the part of the narrator. This juxtaposition of hopefulness and guilt-ridden despair is what Weyes Blood captures so well and the reason why their work resonates: the calm-chaos depicted in their music is an apt and honest observational response to the often confounding, cacophonous and unreconciled experience of the human person in today’s modern, technologized world.