There is a great disturbance in the balance of power.
The world of music is continually evolving. There is a pervasive whispering of hope for a new way. However, the old guard of the industry remain recalcitrant, glued to their posts, dug into their trenches. They will not surrender without a fight. Their cloven-hoofed masters still hide inside the great stone walls. Their bony spines protrude from hunched backs, cruelly bent by more than a century of counting shiny coins. Over and over they count their coins, like withering dragons past their prime. Meanwhile, the gate keepers brace for the ensuing battle. Slovenly and unwashed, the dirty faced proles pump their pitchforks and torches into the twilight.
Wave after wave of unwashed mobs crush against the gates as goblin guards helplessly fling arrows from their protective parapets. Inside the mildewy castle walls, the old masters tremble. They know that the light is very nearly swallowing their shadows. Outside the heavily guarded gates of the industry citadel, horns trumpet loudly and the walls of Jericho come crashing down into billowing clouds of dust.
As the dust drops, and the air is cleared of battle smoke and blood mist, a troupe of new and unlikely heroes rise atop the temple mount, somehow victorious. High fives are attempted and missed, one-arm hugs are dispensed, and socially awkward congratulations are exchanged without direct eye contact. The old guard are ruthlessly dispensed with at the guillotines, while the new party is sworn in by torchlight coronation.
The new saints are oddities too unique to live, but too strange to die.
There shall be no more kings! No more suit and tie executives, no more baby boomer hippy tastemakers in change of everything. Who shall be seen and heard is now decided by the listener’s choice. The trees are loaded with musical fruit ripe for the picking. It is no longer a matter of corporate gatekeepers making tragic choices about what they think we will like. All shall be heard, all shall be revealed. We all shall share in the promise of a new generation of music appreciators and homegrown support.
A great cheer and rejoicing echoes across the wastelands. It is the sound of a million struggling underground artists being heard for the first time. One by one they emerge from their stinking dark holes, blinking in the sunlight of the new day. No more will they be ignored, cast aside into the thorny pits of oblivion. They will rise and sing to the sky. The clouds will part and a golden ray of sun will shine upon them. Among their variety will be nervous freaks – strange and twisted beings.
Among them is the curious entity known as“Saint Grizzly.”
From the magical and mysterious lands of Scranton Pennsylvania, a collection of new vibrations has issued from the void. “Faces” is an angular and meandering collection of sounds – a curious amalgamation of many of my own beloved musical heroes from the past – whizzed in a blender and served with ice.
I am reminded of the time I pushed Snakefinger, New Order, Devo, Merzbow, and early Talking Heads into a day-glo orange five-gallon bucket, refusing to let them out until they learned to play nicely with each other. Feelings were trampled, creative toes were stomped upon, people got hurt. The process was not a pretty one.
Then came a strange day indeed.
The day that whole simmering mess suddenly congealed into a sticky, weird smelling, jiggling gelatin. The resulting sound was delightfully strange, if a tad lumbering and disjointed. Oozing and ambient, downright discordant at times, playful and whimsical others. At one moment it is jerking around convulsively and spasmodically, foaming at the mouth. The next moment it is smooth and dreamy. Adrift on a simmering sea of post punk and new wave relics abandoned on the beach and washed away like driftwood, with a strong and unusual voice binding the whole raft together.
This music is pensive and brooding, contemplative and impulsive, indulgent and retentive. There are moments rife with ironic commentary and subtle self effacement. I can feel that transference of self conscious energy cast upon me, even as I write this, I too feel compromised. It’s not the most jump up and down exciting thing I have ever heard, and at times it is maybe a touch dull. Some of the songs seem a bit protracted – they could benefit from some more judicious editing to make the ideas more concise, but overall this is an interesting release, and as an artist the trajectory here is not without it’s momentum. Saint Grizzly is growing and evolving into something really interesting. There are many moments on this release that I found especially endearing, so let’s talk a bit about those.
“What color is the moon?” The voice demands. “Moon color!” the crowd chants dutifully.
“Uhh-oohh… what’s the truth worth? To a guy like me?” A funky bass line pops and sizzles, hurtling toward a decidedly poppy chorus, followed by a keyboard line that is loungey and riffy. There is something strangely and obliquely baroque and romantic about this song and its’ playful silliness.
On Beatnik Caravan, an acoustic guitar riff is cranked against a crude but artfully auto-tuned backup vocal which begs sardonically: “Beatnik Caravan, tell me I’m ok…tell me I’ll be saved…” The mildly Byzantine melody is a point of interest before it careens off into a collage of synth swells. Oddly pitched harmonies poised against a percussion part which almost sounds like it was literally played on a tin can. A wagon rolls rhythmically down the empty street, as strangers stare obliquely through smeary windows before closing their shades and ignoring that strange thing occurring outside of their comfort zone.
In “The Anecdotal Astronaut” the rollicking beat and fuzzy-wuzzy bass line form tumultuous waters, upon which the bellowing vocal, at once self-conscious and convincing, somehow remains afloat. The distorted, angular guitar lines and steadily bubbling percussion evoke listening to a Snakefinger rehearsal in a dimly lit basement. For me, this was the standout moment on the record, it’s a great song.
The closing track “The Good Winter” undergoes a slow and seasonal metamorphosis that is self-referential and struck through with the poignant existential dread of winter suddenly assailing what was a comfortable autumn nap.
The music on this record is surely libertine in its myriad of indulgences, yet it reserves its most “fragrant” outbursts for ejection at precisely the right moments with an uncanny and often comical and surprising precision.
This was quite obviously self-produced and the production quality – while it is entirely acceptable – is not super polished. It is honest and unpretentious. What the album lacks in sonic clarity it makes up for with an abundance of heart. It is clear Saint Grizzly is striving to make music that means something to them, despite being perhaps unnecessarily coy about it’s presentation.
This is not just weird music for the sake of weird music.
It is clearly the result of a wide palette of highly disparate musical influences – each of them represented like rows of somewhat crudely carved, creepy-faced figurines in a roadside curios shop.
You can find this release on all the major streaming platforms, and Saint Grizzly delivers it with a heaping helping of pure heart gravy. For those who possess an affection for strange music which lies decidedly off the beaten path, it should not be glanced over as a mere footnote, but enjoyed as the emotionally charged assemblage of sounds and carefully crafted figures it delivers to the mostly unready and unsuspecting doorsteps of your ears.