Summer of the Whore

Ha ha, yet another post to lure in the all-important Porn-Googling demographic!

You’ve never heard of the Mendoza Line, which I’ll forgive for now. Okay, no I won’t; go find and listen to Full of Light and Full of Fire right now. Do it. Did you do it? You’re listening to it right now? Good. That’s a husband and wife team on that album, Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle. That album, however is not new.

Ya see, McArdle and Bracy recently divorced, which,  unfortunately, meant the end of The Mendoza Line, perhaps the most underrated band to come out of Austin, TX, in quite a while. Rumor has it Bracy is working on a solo record but, in the mean time, McArdle has released a frighteningly honest look at their split called Summer of the Whore. You can guess from the title how she feels about things.

Break-up albums are a fickle mistress; trying to force the emotion can turn your break-up album into a cringe-inducing, emo-filled affair but holding back the real meat can make it seem superficial, like you’re merely trying to cash in on your heartache. On the other hand, if you strike the right balance between melancholy and honesty, you end up with things like Summer of the Whore or The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit. In declaring it the Summer of the Whore, McArdle is telling us the decision she’s come to about her break-up: she’s going to fuck her way out of the misery, at least for now. Album opener “Poison My Cup” sets the tone: “Don’t want to go to a show, no baby/ take me to your room”. You’ll get the sense, over the ten songs on Summer of the Whore that McArdle has already left the Summer of the Whore behind her, but her willingness to chronicle it is utterly compelling.

It helps that her voice is such a finely tuned instrument – she can sulk, she can sigh, and she can seduce all in the same tune and it helps to get you on her side even while you’re listening to her admit, “I’ll have no conscience to speak of, I’ll have no guilt to lament.” (I’m not saying you should take her side in the divorce, mind you – that’s none of our business. We’re concerned with the songs here and McArdle does a good job of being that friend you know who’s lonely and fucked up and making some bad decisions but you know they’re just trying to get… well, whatever it is out of their system.)

The subject matter can weigh down an album like Summer of the Whore, considering that most of the songs have images of death (usually by drowning, usually in a wedding dress) or discussions of when one takes the ring off and admits that things are never going to be the same. Luckily, Summer of the Whore is only ten tracks long and not entirely devoid of hope – by “Come, Autumn Breeze,” (“The heat has lifted,”) McArdle is talking about the next guy she could actually see herself with and there’s the sense fo the slow healing begun (perhaps her next album will be more upbeat). But McArdle’s musical sense makes even the biggest downers on the album worth hearing again – the title track is exquisite, one of the best songs on the album, as is “Leave Me for Dead,” a feisty little revenge song (“You can say that it’s over/ but, baby, I’m not finished with you”).

I can easily imagine that, like the afore-mentioned Midnight Organ Fight, Summer of the Whore will provide a real catharsis for the recently romantically fucked-over. I imagine, in fact, that this album goes down very well with your own personal bottle of wine during a rousing session of setting fire to all those photos of your ex. Fortunately, I can only imagine these things because I am in a happy relationship and, as such, perhaps am incapable of getting the full benefit of something like Summer of the Whore. But from a musical perspective, it’s a beautiful album by a great singer and is hopefully an indication that she’ll be around for a while, even if the Mendoza Line is dead and gone forever.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s