Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vaadat Charigim's Sinking as a Stone might be the year's best rock record

Years ago, I'd run across a 1945 interview with Albert Camus in which he'd been asked whether he was a revolutionary writer, and in response stated that there was only one revolution for a writer, "the exact appropriation of the form and structure of language to a subject." Today, this appropriation is what I look for in writers, not only of literary fiction but of lyrics and music. 

The most frustrating aspect of nearly every review I read about Tel Aviv's Vaadat Charigim is that it is constantly pointed out that their Hebrew lyrics are indiscernible to an American audience, preventing us from understanding the cynicism with and about which Juval Haring sings. To that end, I ask whether there are any Jewish music reviewers who are capable of translating the Hebrew lyrics, or whether those who do not speak Hebrew can at very least make use of the many translation sites available to us. Moreover – why does Vaadat Charigim seem to be the only non-American band for whom reviewers seem to point out the language barrier every single time?
That said, where Vaadat Charigim succeeds is their appropriation not only of lyrics but of music to an emotion; as Yuck's Max Bloom puts it, "This isn’t a political record by any means, but it is the sound of isolation." When Vaadat Charigim's first record came out, its lead single showed a large hint of the urgency that comes with living in a turbulent country ["When the missiles will fall in the streets of Tel will we pass the time till then?"]. The lead single for new record Sinking as a Stone, "Ein Li Makom," comes with a feeling of resignation, the appropriate sequel after a few more years of the same ["Do not want to be realistic/Do not want to exhaust myself...I do not have a place in this world"]. And likewise, the pacing of their sophomore record is generally slower, more comfortable, albeit not necessarily in the context of contentment so much as passive acceptance. Gentle indifference, Camus might call it.

It does not strive toward any particular style, an imitation of any particular shoegaze record [as can arguably be said about The World is Well Lost]. It is darker and less of an "exciting rock record," but feels much, much more meaningful and personal, with or without its words. It is an album written by people who see their lives laid out for them and understand that the world is not going to get better, and who know their places as mere specks. Its current cultural relevance makes it perfectly modern despite its 25-year old influences and where it sits in the ongoing shoegaze/dream pop revival, and years from now, it will be much more memorable than a number of the like records in its genre, undoubtedly set apart because of the maturity and emotion behind it.

Haring has gone on record saying that pessimism is a typical Israeli trait, but it could also be said that his lyrics are realistic and show the sort of acceptance that only someone in his 30s [or older] could write -- Sinking as a Stone could not have been developed by a band of 22-year olds, starting out in the world and motivated by all that they haven't yet conquered. [It should be mentioned here that Haring claims, in the very same interview, that Vaadat Charigim's third record will partly be about "accepting death." If nothing else, he's consistent.]

When Vaadat Charigim played a set in Los Angeles last month, sandwiched between Winter and Froth on what might've been the Echo's best lineup of the year, they were something of a mismatch, even if they did have commonalities like reverb and Burger Records. They offered neither the lovey-dovey optimism and smiles of Winter, nor the blasé L.A. cool of Froth, instead all-business, little banter or talk of any kind, boom-boom, done. They played a perfect set, but any chatter would've been filler, pointless. And, as stated above, this makes them -- on stage and on recording -- consistent.

The vinyl release of Sinking as a Stone has been pushed back to late July. Typical.

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