“We’ll never manage, after all, to settle permanently in transcendence once and for all.” ~ Adam Zagejewski, “A Defense of Ardor”
We of the Sad Bastards Song Club often talk of music as being therapeutic, a healing of disease, a ministering of answers. Do we really expect music to cure all (to use the Snakehealers term)? No, I think we’re open about our love of music for the temporary tourniquet it applies to loneliness. Not a small task, not unimportant–but, make no mistake, not real HEALING. Perhaps we can define healing as the accumulation of temporary tourniquets, but I don’t think so. You always wind up moving on as less-than. Still that word, therapy, preys on us–it thins that tourniquet. It neuters what is potentially the most consumable thing about something as fractured as art, the plaster of that tourniquet–it sanitizes ARDOR. You and I can scream Tim Barry’s lyrics back into his face along with a room full of good people but don’t expect to go home fixed. That’s not what art does. We go to Tim Barry shows because he is willing to light himself on fire for 45 minutes and show us what ardor looks like–and his shows are most successful when the audience responds ardently.
When I say that ardor is consumable, I mean it in the sense of art as a commodity (which it is–a service, a job, the creation of a product) and I mean that the ardor is what consumes us as experiencers of art–and might that not be the most we get from art?–are we not consuming the chance to be consumed?–the frenzy, the burning, the moments when you catch the fire of the artist, the mystery of what sparks what in us?
So this is all to supposed to bring us to the new Bottomless Pit album, Shade Perennial. This band does me a service. I carry them like a stone somehow swallowed but too big to pass. They’re in my belly. Pummeling my insides when I’m shaken. Which is how I know that the service they offer isn’t therapeutic, but a service that questions, that sparks an ardor that momentarily sucks up doubt and loneliness like oxygen. So many metaphors to say this band makes me cry. I don’t think I could tell you a story that would sound any different than the story of any other body connecting with a band.
Bottomless Pit is a band that, like you and I, shouldn’t necessarily exist–Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen formed the band after Michael Dahlquist, the drummer in their original band Silkworm, was killed when a stranger crashed her car into his in a vehicular suicide attempt. So Bottomless Pit albums don’t deal in lightness. I’m not saying that lightness is ineffective or that these are the most serious people on the planet, but the music they make suffers no distraction. Eight songs, thirty minutes. Tim played wild, puncturing bass in Silkworm, in Bottomless Pit he plays baritone guitar. Andy Cohen’s guitar is so swift and full it could fill a city like a riot. They both write and sing. And when they do these fun, normal things together it just combines into a force of …
In the last notes played on the record, they exit in a storm of sound–as incendiary as an air-raid siren, as domestic as a vacuum cleaner or a dial-up modem. Over so many listens, this has proven the most compelling moment of the record for me. The fade out at the end. The band that only exists when it needs to exist. These guys withdrawing from this thing that they unleashed because they burnt up all the doubt they had. For the time being. I hope they’ll be back the next time they get sick of therapy.