Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina
The Boarder’s Door
, December 30th, 2010 07:23
This is limited to five hundred copies, you know. Plus infinite paid-for downloads from the record label [www.damnably.com], if you like to do it that way. It’s just that Chris Brokaw was in Come, Codeine and is currently in Thurston Moore’s band, Geoff Farina was in Karate and now plays as Glorytellers – not household names, no-one’s saying that, but men who have both been active in the American independent music scene for over twenty years, and were actually in a band together for a very short while in the late 80s. They strike me as the sort of artists whose audience who will ‘want the physical product’. So that’s where we’re at, essentially: the combined pull of two dudes who have been doing this for longer than (maybe) some of you have been alive, who have been signed to big (indie) labels, and who associate with and enjoy the patronage of actual famous musicians, can expect to sell you five hundred CDs. Is it possible to not look trite at this point while writing anything about widespread and blithely accepted piracy? Forget it, Quietus reviewer, it’s Chinatown.
No-one, of course, is stopping Damnably printing more copies of The Boarder’s Door if it strikes some sort of public nerve. The duo’s album from earlier this year, The Angel’s Message To Me, didn’t appear to, but it was an album of blues covers and standards, which is quite hard to get anyone to care about unless it’s by someone pretty famous. Most of this album consists of originals, although there’s still four covers – one traditional, one by The Stanley Brothers (or credited to them: ‘Little Maggie’, also covered by Dylan among others, might date as much as half a century back before said bluegrass siblings tackled it in 1946), one by Elizabeth Cotten and one by Marty Robbins. As ratios go, it recalls what was expected on a country LP from the early 60s or so – and the music does something similar. In the best way possible, all the songs here kind of feel like standards.
Farina, a solo performer for most of these songs (as is Brokaw – save for ‘Little Maggie’ and ‘Try Me One More Time’, both of which they perform as a duo, this could be considered a split album), reins in the excess that he often tossed around during his time in Karate. That band’s mix of art-prog, folky US indie and Steely Dan could be rather… fulsome, certainly, but he’s batting straight for most of this, even if he uses – invents? – the word “mugwumpery” during ‘Hammer And Spade’. Likewise, Brokaw’s most recent guitar works have been gnarly and experimental: his spot as Thurston’s sometime foil, and various limited vinyl or CD-R collabs (his VDSQ Solo Acoustic Volume Three LP is worth hearing, if you chance up on it). Such is not the case here, specifically, although his acoustic playing is more punk-informed than Farina, more urgent and reliant on major chords; ‘Into The Woods’ stands out particularly here, for its sense of dread and intrigue.
The balance that The Boarder’s Door strikes between deep emotional investment in its makers’ craft, and punting said craft out there with blithe insouciance, might be summed up best by ‘They’re Hanging Me Tonight’, Brokaw’s movingly drained Marty Robbins cover. Recorded, one learns, in a hotel bedroom, tape hiss is inescapable throughout – given that ‘lo-fi’ is largely practiced at this point by people who weren’t born when Lou Barlow held down the buttons to record his first Sebadoh sessions, it’s nice to have an older hand take it back to the source, as it were. Charmingly, Brokaw’s efforts to close the album with a snaky, Fahey-ish instrumental called ‘Faenza’ a couple of tracks later are hamstrung by passing vehicles, a background argument and his own paw clonking against the wooden body. He still finishes the song, of course. People are always gonna be people, and the best you can do is relegate them into the background where they belong and put your back into it. This review is sponsored by Metaphors4U.