Review: Centro-Matic

August 6, 2006

Longevity is rarely appreciated and when it is, is often abused. We hail artists like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen for continuing to make music past their prime while their output has clearly deteriorated over time. If there is a glimmer of the past in any of their new material, we pine at their greatness, write living eulogies in review form, and chronicle what once was under the guise of critical thought. This is a disingenuous practice but we find it appropriate to fully cement the artists in living legend status for all others to observe our relative “understanding of the past.” Sadly, this masks what may be right under our eyes; an old band with a familiar yet rejuvenated sound, but not yet legends by our standards. This must stop and I intend to stop it. Centro-matic put out one of the great albums of this year (and perhaps few years past as well) with “Fort Recovery,” and no one seemed to stop and notice.

Will Johnson has a certain way with melody that is full of hooks but doesn’t lose steam after a couple dozen listens. It is a rare quality in songwriters to have the ability to feel relevant and familiar all at once, and Johnson proves it once again with most every song on this extraordinary disc. “Covered Up In Mines” is hazy, but peering through the distortion and the smoky vocals is that melody; its subtle enough to miss but paying attention is certainly rewarding. “In Such Crooked Times” is about as beautiful as I have heard the band and seals it’s fate on becoming one of twenty tracks on my “The Ride Home Mix, Version 5.0,” which is quite the honor. I’m not sure what the “single” would technically be on “Fort Recovery” but most great albums don’t have clear ones anyway. The brilliance of this album could be a feeling of culmination or an air of beginnings, but the combination of the two is what’s truly impressive.

Centro-Matic may fade into obscurity. It’s entirely possible that people will miss the boat on this one. For some reason, people tend to latch onto artists that are clear and obvious winners. The single that dominates the airwaves or the front man that entices the masses with an attractive, yet indescribable quality, can actually matter subconsciously when listening to music. Music lovers will claim they aren’t affected by such qualities or commercial successes but it’s hard to gage. If Will Johnson was slightly quirkier or “Triggers and Trash Heaps” started to climb the charts, would so-called music lovers follow suit? Or is Centro-Matic destined to stay “sort-of” known, and quasi popular among certain circle of indie music? History will decide Centro-Matic’s fate but I for one will claim them legends proudly, today and forever.

JK

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One Response to “Review: Centro-Matic”

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