Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires – Dereconstructed
Some albums sneak up on you. You listen once, and shades of appreciation creep in, but the record’s true worth doesn’t come across until much later. Until you’ve listened to it over and over again, and suddenly you come to an understanding of what it’s about and how it works. Dereconstructed by Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires is not that kind of record. Dereconstructed starts with a blistering riff, grabs you by the throat, and proceeds to kick your ass for roughly 35 minutes. Don’t be alarmed, this is a good thing.
Not that the album doesn’t have depth as well though. Sure, the intrinsic thrill of layers of fuzz and distortion oozing out of the speakers as two guitars grapple for supremacy is undeniable. Yes, the rhythm section is both forceful and nimble, with frenetic beats merging southern blues and punk supporting the low-end rummaging of the bass that’s both relentlessly physical and melodically graceful when it’s called for (check out the precision wrecking ball underpinning “What’s Good and Gone” especially which I’m pretty sure features Matt Patton of the Drive-By Truckers). Then there’s the visceral joy of the sound taken together, a maxed out affair with a ragged production that gives every song a palpable grit. It sounds as if the album wasn’t recorded so much as melted down to a toxic sludge and smeared against your ears. It sounds sloppy, but as it’s done with an expert’s hand. Anyways, that’s all well and good, but what makes the album feel really special is how it sticks around with you.
Lyrically, Lee Bains proves himself an expert at balancing erudite and considered writing that sounds surprisingly natural. Listening to the impassioned and ragged delivery you wouldn’t expect striking imagery such as
But just consider the weeds downtown, and how they grow/How the Queen Anne’s Lace covers hot parking lots like snow”.
It’s even more fun when the waxing poetic turns vitriolic, like in “Flags!”,
Senior year, you could go deaf from all the talk of terrorists and Muslim fundamentalists/And I thought it strange in a town where so-called believers blew up women’s clinics we had the gall to act so offended/And when it would come time to say the Pledge in class, I would sit my ass down at that desk/And the only words of it I said were “under God,” I figured we were beyond the help of anybody else.
The album is both seething indictment and impassioned support for the culture of the South and America at large, as it’s perceived, as it is, and as it’s warped and twisted for monetary gain. Not that you need to dig that deep to find something to like here, as I said, it’s thrilling on its own merits as a quality rock & roll album.
As I write this I’m listening to the record again and a lightning storm is terrorizing the Richmond skyline. The torrential downpour, anchored by growls of thunder, pounding relentlessly on the metal roof sounds a lot like what’s coming out of the speakers. Guitar fuzz like barbed wire wreathed in electricity smothering a swinging backbeat, anchored by a guttural low-end rumble. The sky’s dark, and some sub-logical part of me is afraid for my city and the people in it, trying to get home. But there’s light emerging off to the West; and it’s a glorious fire.