17 Jul 2019
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Grawlixes - Album Review: Set Free

03 Aug 2017 // A review by Peter-James Dries

I put things in boxes. We all do, deny it though you will; it is an artifact of the human’s quest for knowledge. As much as people hate labels, or at least being labelled, boxes help us understand the world around us.

That orange on the table is a fruit.

This cat on my lap is a domestic short haired.

My body is male and made of matter.

Obganiate is a verb.

That band released an album because they enjoy working together and some of their jams really worked.

This rapper uploaded their track because they think they’re Tupac.

This bedroom musician has just discovered music, is pleased with themselves, and is sharing it with the world because everyone should be pleased with them too – and a bit of positive-reinforcement shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

I’m usually quite adept and picking what the marketing team, or the band, are trying to say, where they’re coming from and why. Usually. Sometimes it is not until after a review is long since completed. Going into reviews blind helps, so I’m not tainted by what the others hear, or what the band wants me to think I’m hearing.

Why then, if I’m such the closet serial organiser as I above lay claim, can I not place Grawlixes debut Set Free?

The songs are too well constructed to be the product of a jam session, the guitar lines too intricate, and it doesn’t come across as the typical bedroom musician fair. The recording is too crisp, too professional, not the kind of quality you are going to hear coming from $20 microphones and an illegal download of Sonic Foundry Acid 4.0 on a fifth-hand Cash Converters guitar.

In a way their album, Set Free feels like releases from a handful of other bands I’ve heard, albeit without the production values. Two people with a one voice, a guitar they know how to play, and some spare time to feed off of each other’s energy. Sexual tension, broken hearts, feelings, words, and lies. But there is more to it here. Some kind of sarcasm or cynicism between the lines. Maybe it’s that sense called realism, so often confused with being pessimistic.

Remember that low-key release from the Smashing Pumpkins American Gothic? The one that came out after they made their comeback with Zeitgeist before fading once again into obscurity. There are tinges of the older incarnation of Billy Corgan that appear on that album in the voice of the boy part of Grawlixes boy-girl duet. I hear it more in the boy-centric tracks than the girl, which the album rotates between. It served as a little piece of the familiar alternative-rock my life use to rotate around, in Set Free’s sea of obscure influences I will never know the names of. An anchor to keep me in the album. It may seem trivial to you, but this music is so far outside my world.

I mean, there are choruses with mouth music, hums and la la las, not words. That’s something you don’t see much of anymore and something missing from the music of these modern times. Nor do you see the soul and humanity present in Set Free. Not when you’re consumed by the soulless inhumanity of 80’s Gothic Rock.

Maybe it’s the Millennial voice (if what we have here are Millennials), a thought based on the generalisation that Millennials are the group in this county I relate to the least. Songs with words I can quantify, but sentiments I’m too old to understand. Feelings I will never feel because I have never been a duo that play guitar and sing better than I do or because I haven’t been young for years and my generation works in polar opposites.

Black and White, with no time for grey. Night and Day, with no time for Ughten. When we think about happy music, it’s Techno, melancholy, I put on Funeral Death Metal. I don’t always sing, but when I do, it’s never in a Kiwi Accent.

What Grawlixes have captured here are the spaces between the feelings. Acoustic Indie-folk, I guess you’d call it.

After I’ve picked the why the band want me to listen, and the review is complete, the albums are put in to boxes and folders too. Some are for repeat listening, some that are just not for me, and that’s ok. I’m just not their target audience.

I set out thinking this album would be the latter, without even giving it a chance. A smart named band with music too smart for me. Meant for a different human in this different life and a different occupation. It’s nothing personal. Most of the time I choose living in my own misery over the chance of happiness.

But your music won, and now I want the world to hear you, Grawlixes. Because behind your melancholy, there is a sense or happiness. Or relief. Or closure. Or some unnamed feeling I live to push down deep.

Get out there. Keep going. Tour more, or sell-out (I know, a dirty word). Get your songs on TV ads. Become the new voice of butter, like Kingston became the new voice of KFC. Those melodious falderals show off your voices, and will get into our heads and our hearts. Bring back that feeling we had humming the tune to My Girl, slipped into our heads by the Anchor Family adverts of the 90s.  

I’d say get your cinematic, emotion laden songs into movies, because your songs are too good to be hoarded in the minds of the Indie Kids alone. But by the same token, your music shouldn't be relegated to background noise. Part of my trouble was, I thought I could put your album on my iPod and cruise through a review on my daily walk from Brooklyn. But the full enjoyment of your music, not just of your vocal licks, needs attention, a dedicated listening session in a bean bag by a window, in a world where I have time to indulge is such pleasures. You don't get that jay-walking or avoiding bicycles. If it wasn’t for this social anxiety I’ve often misinterpreted as misanthropy, I’d love to come and see you live.

Keep away from music videos, unless it’s a vanity project, where you take a camera to a beach yourself then spin around in circles until you can’t focus the lens properly or hold it straight, and then, most importantly, only do it for yourselves – you came into the life of a musician knowing there is no money in it, and I don’t know if you’ve seen the mainstream music videos or heard the music behind them recently, but they’re all *%#$. Flashy, showy, boasty, *%#$.

And Grawlixes aren’t *%#$.

 

Other Reviews By Peter-James Dries

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Like every independent musician, I’ve felt the pain of checking my artist pages to find the first track is still the one with the most plays. I should be reassured that someone has put the effort in to try and listen to something I’ve spend months making.
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I’m really glad music like this is still getting made. As a former bedroom rock star, borderline agoraphobic, and closet Goth, I appreciate the art form.
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My next review may seem ill-placed, in that Second Prize are a Melbourne-based band, and this is a New Zealand Music site.  But what is Wellington if not a waiting area for emigration to the land of more money and better weather.
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13 Mar 2019 // by Peter-James Dries
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The Stungrenades - Album Review: Class War: Fight Back!
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