Reviews:: Centro-matic Fort Recovery

The problem with lists is you always forget obvious entries. I drafted up a best-of-2006 so far list, and somehow forgot to include Centro-matic’s Fort Recovery release. It’s easy to justify the omission. This isn’t an the type of album that will grab you right away, and that is probably because this is the first album that combines all of Will Johnson’s many personas. A seasoned songwriting veteran, Johnson’s side projects (the poppier sounds of the fantastic South San Gabriel and his solo work) often allow him to focus strictly on the bass-heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs Centro-matic fans love. This album is a combination of all these styles and then some.

His trademark hushed vocals have you almost straining to hear the words coming from your speakers. He doesn’t volunteer anything, and it makes it more rewarding. Lyrically, Johnson has few peers. Instead of grandiose vernacular, Johnson uses simple but elegant descriptions to set his themes and moods and this album mixes his vocals with crazy horse guitars, subtle instrumentation, and intricate layers to slowly lodge itself into your day to day listening schedule.

I was trying to describe the band to my friend, and realized listening Centro-matic is kind of like taking a fantastic road trip. Trying to describe it in a few words is almost impossible and is, without fail, lost in the translation, because the best part of the trip is the little experiences you get from making the trip itself.

Will Johnson avoids trying to grab your attention, instead plodding along writing for a consistent audience: himself. And we are lucky he does. Will Johnson doesn’t seem to be phased by how music changes or who is listening, and this give the music a more sincere feel. This is Centro-matic’s 7th album and I’ll admit I was slightly underwhelmed on first listen, but that isn’t surprising. Without taking the time to really ingest the album, you aren’t really getting the full experience. The album has incredible range. Ballads (I See Through You), fuzz heavy monsters (Calling Thermatico) and emotional tracks (whenever I hear Covered Up In Mines, I just get that feeling of coming home exhausted and beaten down), but its’ the combination of songs that really let’s you listen to the whole disc without noticing the songs flying by. It wasn’t until I sat down and really listened to the album that it grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

I’d like to say this is mine, but perhaps the best description I’ve read for this album comes from Aquarium Drunkard. Fort Recovery is not unlike taking your whiskey neat. It burns in all the right places on the way down.

MP3:: Triggers and Trash Heaps

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