Kick Up the Dust
t was a supremely dumb-ass move to name this band Blood Meridian. It’s a basic point of decorum in art: Steal the title/structure of an opus only if you’ve got something to add to the tapestry.
Ringleader Mathew Camirand, chief songwriter and lead guitarist of Black Mountain, those dusky guitar studs who flip between Superfund dirge and bone-clean tremors, does have the card-shuffling ease of Cormac McCarthy’s literary record of the disordered American race war known as Manifest Destiny, but none of the urgency or gravity. Blood Meridian, a loose collective featuring members of Black Halos and Pink Mountaintops, whittles away with an unfortunate combination of shimmering, almost pastoral rock and frequently groan-worthy, disaffected diary-and-tumbleweed verse.
Though there’s no sense in carrying the whole novel/album parallel, it is disorienting to hear a band that has consciously framed itself as redolent of rage and absurdity use all its eclectic talents and undergrad collectivism (efficiently wistful pop, straight rock, and nourishing folk all get equal airtime) to monger three-minute pop songs that barely dip their toes in gristle or remorse. “Work Hard, For What?” rolls along under a nice enough organ only to have a glib, meaningless catchphrase act as the lyrical payoff: “Take your job / And shove it up your ass.”
Camarind sings in a bleat that tosses his already tunnel-vision lyrics (i.e. himself, and other dudes of ill repute) into a dangerously limited level of appeal, “I sat at home. Watch for the phone / I guess I’m lonely. / She sits at home. Watch for the phone” (“Try for You”). But with all of the gorgeously fluttering guitars, banjos, and dusty, simply percussion, Kick Up the Dust almost breaks free of Camarind’s dime-store poetry and derivative, halting breath pattern. The trilled, crystalline guitars and approachable, spinal percussion keep a warm, easy tempo through the bulk of the album. As half-wizened, saccharine, rural background music, it hums along effortlessly.
But Camarind’s songs really only deal in stereotype—grainy, barely sketched ideas and themes tossed in a stream of canny instrumentals: “I work to live while my boss gets rich / I come home at night too tired to enjoy my life / On Sunday you’re gonna find I’m leaving this behind.” Spacey, unripe instrumental diversions (“In the Forest, Under the Moon,” “McDonald’s Blues”) have a spine of clichés, as well: “Oh, beautiful please. I’m down on my knees / Forgive me for what I have done / It was late last night / We had a fight.” In fact, if Dust resembles anything on the beat-down rural areas of North America, it might be mica: shimmering and smooth, but really just a pile of flakes.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2006-09-07