Grab That Gun
6 years ago i got Melissa Etheridge's Breakdown, digging my teeth into it after being moved by her impassioned, gravelly vox on 'Angels Would Fall.' her sexuality was entirely peripheral to the listen, and i bought the album precisely to examine her mettle as a musician and drown the public clamor about such a quaintly taboo subject. instead i discovered that her sexuality reigned on the album as well, and though i don't think it was vaunted or superficial, i simply didn't see the big deal. again and again i attempted to find a deeper substance to the piece and again it came to naught.
the problem, and this may sound absurd, was that she sang as a gay woman. as poignant and as harrowing as her messages were at times ('Scarecrow,' 'Mama I'm Strange'), their placement under a very particular umbrella never universalized Breakdown's grievances or triumphs. i could empathize, sure, but i could never fully comprehend her messages as qualia and instead only kept content with the schism of understanding through a vague emotional nexus. so now it's 2005 and the range of female musicians i know and appreciate has widened immensely, annulling my prior and far more unlettered view of women in music. the position of any artist in any artistic medium is to present their art through a wider, expansive realm. this isn't to say that it should be bereft of a particular agenda based issues of gender, sex, or sexuality, but the presentation cannot be unabashedly about those subjects. a bevy have done so, including Sleater-Kinney, M.I.A., Nina Nastasia, (early) Liz Phair, Chan Marshall (Cat Power), and The Organ.
Grab That Gun almost never happened. after recording the album once and exhausting their funds in the process, the band was dissatisfied with the result and sought to record it again. penniless, they resorted to abbreviated recording sessions in sundry studios, giving the 29-minute length of the album an ironic twist. more than that, however, it leads to a sense of exigence on it as practically no fodder or fat is to be heard on any of the tracks. The Organ is a quintet, but nothing is overpowering. indeed, the spaces between the instruments are wide and initially unappealing. their conduct instantly culls Galore-era Cure, Joy Division, and The Smiths, but a far more cautious listen excavates a harder post-punk slant to those influences that recalls contemporaries like The French Kicks and Interpol.
indeed, Katie Sketch's voice comes off as disaffected like Paul Banks's, but it also rises to fare more emotional heights not by singing out of her range, but by matching the guitars, drums, and--importantly enough--Jenny Smyth's work on the real organ the band employs. the result is a palpable change in dynamics in each song, like at the closing of 'Brother,' when Sketch's performance leads the instruments towards a melodic post-punk apex before a great dissipation and end. and at certain points the band animates an Indie-Rock zeitgeist, as on 'Sinking Hearts,' where the guitars strum acutely and aggressively over the bridge or 'Steven Smith,' flowing throughout with melody. 'There is Nothing I Can Do' is the album's sparsest song, led by Ashley Webber on bass and Smyth's organ, digging deeper into the Smiths' influence.
channeling their peers and forerunners, The Organ utilize a complex and canny genre to convey their voices as musicians first. i don't know whether the lyrics--which are broad but not indecisive--aim to convey a specific gender or sexual angle, nor do i think that such a consideration is genuinely relevant here. most who get to know The Organ will first see them as a female quintet, pessimistically offering judgment about their range and capabilities. the sad axiom of the rock critical arena is that female musicians are always thought of as inhabiting a unique body outside the genre itself. part of it is the fault of the musician--who will present themselves in that light--and part is the fault of the listener. Grab That Gun is, simply put, a solid album by a solid group. all other deliberation is insubstantial.
Release date: November 2, 2004
Rating: 8.2 / 10
© Copyright 1998-2005 RockMusicReview.com. All Rights Reserved.