Tuesday, 7 December 2010

30 Pounds of Bone - Method

In his (1637) Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes established doubt as the fundamental philosophical procedure. There is plenty of doubt to be found in the Method of 30 Pounds of Bone, but it is not, as Sergei Eisenstein would say, its dominant. The tenor here is rather a kind of yearning, delivered as much by the rising cadences of Jonny Lamb's voice as in any of the lyrics. This is a voice that, for all its gin-soaked weariness, belies a certain strange innocence, even naivete, that cannot help but be disarmingly winsome.

Though Jonny's ten songs are run through with a kind of haunted nostalgia for things that never quite were, laced with a repentance without rue or regret, the whole is far from sonic ludditism – even if ostensibly a folk record. This record is alive with the thrill of electricity and desiring machines. The Flying Dutchman reborn as the bastard child of Edison, Russolo and Deleuze.

A folk record perhaps, but a strangely rootless one, ten wanderer's tales with a jackdaw's approach to its multifarious traditions. Sea shanties lurch and swagger, upon melodies that sway and leap into flight, making this a record to sing along to, but not, as they, on the terraces. It is too fragile, too denuded for the mob. And not alone, either. This record is in good company and, for all its occasional cathartic melancholy, ultimately good cheer too. Rather, this is an album to which one imagines an entire pub full of people - somewhere in Cork perhaps - spontaneously bursting into and chanting 'til its end. It carries the beer-stained hall like a wave, taking tears and bruises alike in its tempestuous, maybe even slightly dangerous, path.

To discover oneself, suddenly, alarmingly, with no surer footing than sand and mud, and then to rebuild oneself through song, crafting one's principles as you go along, accepting nothing as given, and, finally, expelling all doubt through the careful avoidance of prejudice and precipitancy. It is not enough to have a good heart, one must bare it. And he does. With more wit and more soul than a thousand paper cowboys and cereal box balladeers. Don't be fooled by its swagger, these songs still need - and fully deserve - your deepest affections.

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