What is it with breakup records? Why do we love them so?
Taking copious notes of where love went wrong sounds like such a painful, cathartic process. But we can't get enough. When relationships crumble, it often makes for more interesting musical fodder than, say, sunny days and milkshakes (though there are a few decent songs about that stuff, too). We tend to gravitate toward those tender tunes here at Indie Study HQ, the ones where talented people tell us all about their personal hells. We also tend to gravitate toward reality television and WB dramadies, so that might explain it.
Maybe it’s summed up best in a line from the appropriately titled song “Tonight On the Wb” by The Comas: “We love it when you fall apart / You turn it into higher art.”
The Six-Degrees of the WB doesn't stop there. Legend has it that Comas lead singer Andy Herod and “Dawson’s Creek” ingenue Michelle Williams had themselves a two year romantic implosion, and after multiple viewings of “Dark City” and a whole lot of liquor (he thanks wine in the liner notes), Herod emerged with the morose “Conductor” tucked inside his heavy heart.
“Conductor” is a compelling concept record rife with intimate post-breakup imagery, but set against a backdrop of science-fiction despair. Herod and company perform a gentle tug-of-war between bittersweet lullabies and upper-register rock angst, emanating an air of majestic, self-absorbed desperation that would make Billy Corgan blush. And that's a good thing.
Their lo-fi aesthetic taps a myriad of mid-’90s guitar rock influences, with a similar lyrical intimacy that’s propelled so many other New Millennium popsters into Indie Rock stardom, or at least, into guest spots on “The O.C.”
“Tonight on the WB” initially lays on the made-for-TV schtick pretty thick with its droopy, almost familiar mid-tempo slink. But thankfully Herod’s rebellious yowling at the tune’s crescendo veers it out of the Gin Blossoms lane and takes the off-ramp into Pixiesville.
Between the shoegazing and pop stomping, Herod sings of interstellar queens and holograms, as if losing love were an entirely alien experience trapped behind a cloudy two-dimensional T.V. screen. The journey from loneliness to lovelorn insanity takes some of the same totalitarian schizo paths as Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” Herod’s emotional downfall is even overrun by an imaginary invasion on the epic “Last Transmission”: “Attack! Attack! / They will not fight you! / They are not like you / We have already won!”
To extend to the whole album’s bleak otherworldly motif even further, the CD is paired with a pretty impressive DVD version of the album. “Conductor: The Movie” is a beautiful, jittery visual imagining of the album, slickly composed by cinematographer/animator Brent Bonocorso and stars Williams and Herod in the girl-meets-boy-girl-explodes-boy-is-destroyed roles. Robots fly, buildings shatter and militants march through the darkness on the edge of Herod’s imaginary town.
The swirling climax to “Oh God” throws around riffs thick enough to count as a lost track from My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless.” But Herod winks through the din, knowing where “Conductor” stands against the canon of lovelorn breakup albums that have sobbed before him.
“Oh God, blood on the eight track / Oh God, stars in my eyes / Oh God, that was living / Oh God, I wanna die.”
Help save Andy Herod’s life and check out The Comas at http://thecomas.com/.