Why Are We Not Perfect?
Talk to anyone who seriously writes for a living and they’ll tell you that penning short fiction is a far different proposition than inscribing a novel. Sure it’s all putting words on paper, but writing short takes a special brand of focus and economy that eludes some long winded novelists. There aren’t many scribes other than David Foster Wallace (RIP) who could ably transition from maximalist to minimalist with any kind of fluency.
Which is why more metal heads should take postmodern scribe Donald Barthelme as the guiding muse of less-is-more thinking. Trained as a journalist – who all worship two gods, Time and Space, because we never get enough of either – Barthelme’s genius lay in penning micro stories, often only paragraphs long, that managed to cram whole universes of detail and character into their brevity.
The same for Justin Broadrick’s Jesu work. While his two full lengths to date have been breathtaking (if a tad overlong) in their expansiveness, it’s in the EP and split format that his brilliance has truly radiated under the pressure to intensely edit his meandering meditations.
While plenty of musicians can pen a good tune, actually creating an extended cohesive listening experience has eluded many. It’s why Neurosis and Pig Destroyer continue to draw me back in to their worlds while I lost interest in Nile about two albums ago. Artists like Rudimentary Peni and Broadrick take it a step further, ruthlessly culling the detritus and issuing 20-minute bursts of transcendence.
While not as radiant in composition or execution as Lifeline or Silver, Why Are We Not Perfect? (is the title some postmodern self-referential in-joke?) is the latest solid if somewhat lacking line on Broadrick’s CV. Three tracks from last year’s split with Eluvium and a pair of forgettable remixes, Perfect is another half hour of druggy drift dominated by endless Vangelis-scoring-Bladerunner keyboard washes over Quaaluded vocal mumblings about life, death and the universe. It’s Broadrick, flying solo, at his most contemplative with almost nary a guitar in sight. This is JKB getting his Sigur Ros on minus the falsetto.
The descending synthed tubular bells sounding riff from “Farewell” could have been swiped from any Cure album during that band’s prime while the (relatively) short instrumental “Blind and Faithless” would have passed unremarked as the intro to any song off of Jesu’s eponymous full length.
While Broaderick is your go to guy for remixing a tune until it’s a droney, contemplative waft of ethereal goodness, remixing songs that are already droney, contemplative wafts of ethereal goodness seems a tad redundant, and the alternate versions of “Farewell” and the title track add little more than a few extra seconds of swirly keyboard to songs already larded with keyboards.
While Why Are We Not Perfect? lacks true standout moments like Silver’s “Star” or Lifeline’s collaboration with Swans diva Jarboe, “Storm Coming On,” even malformed Broadrick still offers plenty of moments to absorb during repeated listens.