I've been sitting on this review for weeks, trying to figure out what to write.
It's easy to say I love Carpetbombing, because I do. The sludgy guitars, grumbled/howled vocals, angelic choir refrains, hundred tonne bass lines, percussion that collapses like spuds rolling off a shelf in the pantry — it all falls into a cacophonous orchestra and delivers something angular and awkward, yet simultaneously graceful and choreographed. It's like two middle weight boxing champions in a drunken bar fight - there's form, elegance and intent, but everything's a bit blurry and loses balance just when you think it's going to hold up.
However, every time I tried to analyse Carpetbombing as a straight-forward rock record, it didn't feel right. It was too hard to convey the haunting impact of the choir, or to highlight the Frankenstein lumber set by the menacing rhythm section. Even just trying to articulate the effect of Tom Lyngcoln's leaf-blower voice as the ideal companion to his astounding and unique guitar playing style served impossible to effectively recreate in words. I tried going from song to song waffling on with bullshit, but I just couldn't express the album as a whole in a way I felt satisfied.
Then, late last night, at about two minutes into my 50th listen of Unknown Hunter, it hit me. The reason I've had so much trouble trying to review this record as an album is because I haven't been listening to it as an album — I've been experiencing it as a musical.
There have always been complete albums I've enjoyed and have listened to many times over in full. But with those, I've still managed to pull out pieces and parts and remix and apply their playing order depending on my mood. But with Carpetbombing I find it impossible to not listen to the entire thing from start to finish like it's an ambitious, singular piece of art.
From Don Walker's Richard III-esque opening monologue of The Closing Of The Day straight into Lyngcoln's "Days..." at the start of Water Runs Cold, I'm completely seized and carried from song to song, like I'm being dragged deep into a masterful Bell-Shakespeare performance. Each scene is perfectly weighted and ebbs into and out of the previous, varying in lyrical content, but sharing the same melancholy tone and pulsating with the murderous energy of an executioner's swinging axe.
Songs are never left to sit on their own either. Their all strung together with little scenes between songs that add to the overall weight and depth of the story. The intro to Big Ivan for example, feels like a montage in the dark, as a bevy of dancers float across a darkened stage, rather than simply a connector between tracks. Seriously, go and listen for yourself and imagine a group of witches prancing between craggy trees like a scene from MacBeth. Even the immediate-sounding recording style used by Lyngcoln makes me feel like I'm sitting in a dimly lit theatre and experiencing the entire show organically.
Then again, maybe I'm just digging too far into my own psyche to find a hook for a review I have to get in before a deadline. Either way it's made me hope that Lyngcoln and crew will team up with a playwright and expand the record into some kind of epic, theatrical experience.
Until then, I'm going to sit in this little playhouse in my mind and experience the whole show in my own weird way.