Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Desert Island Pick #1

Can murder be done with grace and style?

-Travis Morrison

So, having spent the better part of an hour trying to concoct a post about my 'Most Underrated Album of All Time,' I threw in the towel after realizing the enormity of the task. Maybe someday I'll make another attempt, but for the time being, I'll content myself by talking about the album's best track. That album, namely ! by the Dismemberment Plan, is mostly characterized by adrenaline-infused post-punk anthems about relationships absurdities, emotional payback, and getting your ass-kicked. However, the final track, 'Rusty,' departs from the formula both sonically and lyrically, revealing the young Travis Morrison as a songwriter and performer who has already attained a pinnacle reached by few over their entire careers.

The song opens with a squall of fuzzy guitar noise that fades out into a simple drum beat accompanied by a tortured bass line. A solo guitar enters the mix, and a beautifully melancholy solo carries on for about 2 minutes, a sort of post-punk version of 'Maggot Brain.' At the 2:45 mark, Travis Morrison's voice wafts in, delivering some of the most opaque, but provocative lyrics of his career. "I pulled my collar down low, to show my sucking-chest wound," he states flatly, then goes on to describe a diving board that "springs into place," a child screaming in mid-dair, dirt-encrusted fingernails, and a rusty old swing set. What does it all mean? Who knows, but the line "Can murder be done with grace and style?" at the end of the first verse provides a telling clue. This is a revenge fantasy of sorts, but not a satisfying one. "My big experiment failed," Morrison sings in the second verse, suggesting that no act of vengeance will ease his internal suffering. As the song reaches its climax, Morrison's controlled vocals break-down into a banshee-wail of tortured agony to closes out the song. Morrison developed a way of converting his pain into infectious pop songs on later D-Plan albums, but he never topped the emotional poignancy expressed by this vocal in 'Rusty,' and that's saying something.  

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