You Can Have It All
This girl is exhausted.
Not everything is about The Wrens. But come on, ten years is a bloody long time between sips. Coincidentally, the last time The Wrens released anything, a band from New Zealand called Batrider were embarking on the four year trek across the Tasman. Crawling out of the darkness of our own asses and analysing the hyperbole nature that defined us in the early naughties, and it's clear now that from an external perspective our obsession with Batrider would have appeared a little confusing. Especially considering that the gushing descriptors we attached to the band rarely got past phrases describing brutally beautiful ritualistic acts, such as ripping out hearts from chest cages and cradling them lovingly, weeping and falling asleep as the organ's tears of blood trickled onto our downturned facial expression.
Stephanie "Summer Flake" Crase appeared briefly in what would be the final incarnation of Batrider. At this stage, the band resembled very little of the initial formation that transformed us into embarrassing front-row fangirls, with only front-lady Sarah Mary Chadwick remaining from the founding core. They sputtered out of my world, seemingly becoming tired of their own work, half-heartingly attempting to mould into something new, something more, but also sounding disinterested in their creative path. The brutally was lone gone, blood-curdling screams had fallen on deaf years for an entire lifetime and Chadwick ended up using the platform primarily as a therapeutic set of crutches. But, while less enthralling than their faultless early releases (most notably, Tara, which is still an absolute corker of a record and I'll kick anyone in the jubbles that says otherwise), the latter part of their life still felt connected to those initial windmill punches of ferociousness, as though these more passive and subtle offerings were simply different reactions to the same underlying emotion.
It took damn near two millenniums to wrap my tiny mind around exactly what that pleasurable emotion is/was.
Being completely fed up. Overwhelmed. Bored. Over it. Guts full.
When examining music, this is rarely a focal point. Love, lust, death, happiness, hatred, booty, material wealth. These are the common destinations. Exhaustion is often accepted simply as a by-product, the offspring of hard work, dedication and determination. A small reward, delivered in sweat-smelling perspirant parcels and chemically-enriched endorphins, activities synonymous with The Jock Lyfe more than The Rock Lyfe.
But since this realisation, I've noticed this is a common trait in a lot of the music I enjoy. Primarily, as the point of origin. The father, mother and great aunt of more complex themes. The base for a wildly varied range of emotional avenues. Frustration, acceptance, self-pity, detachment, contemplation — to name but a few.
And this girl sounds exhausted.
She hangs up boots, takes stock, hides chicken stock in your size elevens. You Can Have It All is responsive, analytical, unsure and cheeky. Crase sounds comfortably lethargic, existing in a removed position where her calm, angelic tones are able to delicately weave themselves around the crunchy compositions that oscillate between skeletal guitar-solo frameworks and occasional half-hearted outbursts of self-importance. She rarely steps out of these comforting shadows, preferring instead for you to make your way over to her. This complacency means that Crase's perfectly economical one-liners are often missed on initial listens, muttered and mumbled under wispy breath and only wrestled into the spotlight as you become more comfortable with her delivery format. A slow-drip reveal that only strengthens the impact of the punctuated quips. Such that, when a lyric like "all your friends are dying, but mine are still alive" — delivered with a blend of smugness, dark comedic casualness and country rock parody — finally jumps out from it's stereo enclosure, it'll more than likely knock your face off.
But this isn't a record built for impact. It's not worried about punching your lights out. It's focused on composure. Complacency. Comfort. Unambitious is a word that probably attaches itself to negative connotations in your brain. But here, it's a fitting compliment. Blue could have been a perfectly shallow pop song (or even a cover of the Eiffel 65 classic), but Crase instead chooses to drag into a darker world, fighting against the uptempo momentum with haunting monotonic vocals from deep in the mix. And in turn, this contradictory battle becomes the song's more endearing and entertaining quality. Your toes are tapping but your heart is hurtin'. Similarly, every little taste of cutesy sweetness on the absolutely faultless pair, Drag You Down and Forever Here And Now, is poisoned by the blunt, lyrical bleakness. Sounding kind of like the musical documentation of someone rounding up a truck full of those flower headband-wearing "hippie" girls you always see at indie festivals, beating them with a Reality stick and then leaving them on the corner of Heartbreak and Hopeless Streets, with nothing but their deep-seeded insecurities and charmless sense of superiority to assist in their navigation back to the Ketel Vodka sponsored indie festival we plucked them from. Yeah, "kind of".
You Can Have It All isn't bothered by these girls. Or, in fact, anyone that exists outside of it's own world. It's confined by it's own measures, it's own environment. Completely comfortable in it's own skin, it's own shortcomings, it's own flaws and cemented opinions. A contentment sourced from a basis of absolute exhaustion. There's a mostly undocumented prelude of moments that occurred before this record. They're not dwelled upon, but this album's tone references their existence. They've worn the creator down. And, in turn, created this remarkably good record.
This girl's exhaustion is our reward.