Written, Performed, Engineered, &Produced by Joey Carbo.
Recorded at THE HOSPITAL, Baton Rouge, 2016.
Art: “Seer III” &“Das Trauemerling” by Freya Prowe.
Layout: Mark Waite Disc face: Lewis D’Aubin
Review by Christie Matherne Hall:
Joey Carbo's latest, Modern Myths, journeys into the darker parts of the human subconscious. While full of Carbo's signature poetic lyricism, he seems to push it even further into mysticism at times on this record. One thing that stands out about this album from his others I've listened to, is that there is no real reprieve here -- there's barely a break for positivity, barely an uplifting chord progression to provide emotional shelter among the despair and, at times, violent hopelessness, of the songs on this record. At no point is he singing about active happiness (not that it's a requirement). The closest he comes to it is on "We Live Here," wherein the melody is light enough to hide that the happiness is fog, formed in a cozy den, free of any memory of the path that got them there. It's still a poignant downer. The clip of the man violently screaming at the end of the song seemed to holler that theory back at me.
Before that, we're shackled by the handcuffs of time, trapped in the four-and-a-half minute torschlusspanik of "While You Were Gone" -- a ballading dirge that seems to physically grieve, breaking apart in the middle and shearing the beautiful violin melody into shards that sound like crickets by the end, held in contrast by the original string melody, as if to compare its pieces to the whole. It's followed by a sister song of sorts, "The Storm." Like "We Live Here," it's something other than hopeless -- dreamy, even, and hints at a fog or confusion that some might mistake as excitement or happiness. It tends toward a Wizard of Oz-type device, the anxiety of going, or a feeling of change that might lead one to say, "We're not in Kansas anymore."
One piece that struck me hard: "The Mirror." It's not much more than an audio clip and a beautiful instrumental arrangement on its heels, but what the clip gets at is something that I imagine makes most people anxious: "What is it about you that creates an unfavorable reaction in others?" The clip is enough, and Carbo ties it into an instrumental to avoid complicating it, serving the listener with an elongated moment to consider the weight of such a question.
Another striker lies in "Killing I Made," which feels much different than the rest of the album: his voice seems to change into a bouncier version of itself; catchy and rhythmic like a pogo stick. The old man says "You gotta make one sound because we all break down," and my deep-down hot take on this is an examination of where in life a person must go, and what a person must see, in order to make that sound -- and when the sound is finally made, it doesn't help. It doesn't stop or stall or thwart the powder keg at the end of every life. And he leaves us with the taste of steel; the image of gagging on a gun barrel, wanting to speed up the inevitable, but still stuck in the sunshine, screaming like hell. On the heels of that whopper, bites "The Truth" -- a truth that Carbo won't spoon-feed. It's too much to care about, he says in the end. We want to hurt ourselves, we want to hurt others, and we are not good. There comes a point where we see this in ourselves, and in others, and we cannot care about that truth anymore -- in the end, it saves no one.
Some of the songs on Modern Myths are surrounded by dead people and folks on fire, with corpses scattered here and there. There's also an uncomfortable intimacy present here; we're so close, we can feel the pulse rising and falling. The album appears to entirely aim for a line from "Proven Miracle," where we're told that it won't get easier, that they don't give you enough rope to hang your neck. Yes, it's dark. But Carbo isn't intending to scare folks away from darkness, I don't think he ever is -- he's no stranger to writing songs about hopelessness and anger. He's done it with precision here, communicating specific turns of emotion, sans generalization. And he's crafted these in such a way that they invite before they frighten. They're as instrumentally delicate and intricate as they are good at cutting deep, and seem to be created with an invitation in mind. This album wants company.