Year After Year

In my review of their EP The Palms (AP # 64) I compared Idaho to Red House Painters, Codeine and Leonard Cohen because, like those artists’ subtly somber music, Idaho’s will, I predict, withstand the ravages of trends and time. Idaho slowly trek through the outer dark of their scarred psyches to produce songs sadder than a custodian in a porn theater. If Year After Year were a person it would be prescribed Prozac and advised to seek psychotherapy.

John Berry (guitar/drums) is a veteran of the LA. punk scene, an ex-heroin addict and ex-con. Jeff Martin (bass/vox), poor soul, endured three weeks as music composition major in a California college. I shudder to contemplate exactly what these guys went through to create music this harrowing.

Frankly, Year After Year is monochrome but not monotonous. It’s essentially twelve variations on a theme—but it’s a hell of a theme: simple, desolate acoustic guitar strum underpinning eerie wailing feedback and slo-mo power-chords, over which Martin sings in his plaintively Cohenesque voice. Berry uses feedback the way Alberto Giacometti sculpts: severely lean, disturbingly beautiful.

The opening “God’s Green Earth” sets the tone that follows for most of Year After Year. In this tenebrous ballad, a beatific calm battles an inner turmoil, resulting in a delicious tension. Skyscrape,” a stone-cold classic, pulses and flows like My Bloody Valentine’s sultry sonic sedative “Swallow,” of all things. It conjures that hollowed-out yet somehow relieved feeling that can come after a relationship goes bust. Slight deviations from the norm occur on “Here to Go,” a power ballad with slate-gray guitar crescendos and controlled valve tube explosions, and “One Sunday,” which is almost jaunty and in a brighter modality than anything else here; it’s Idaho’s “Lord Kill the Pain” (see Red House Painters’ Down Colorful Hilt). “Endgame,” actually a retitled, post-trauma version of the awesome “You Are There” from The Palms, appropriately closes the LP with a stormy bang.

I can’t imagine that the Beavis and Butthead generation will cotton to Idaho’s mature, measured angst ballads but sensitive, intelligent individuals will fall hard for Year After Year. (Caroline)

-Dave Segal