Giving a bad review to an album laden with emotional investments that provides insights into someone’s insecurities and fears should not be taken lightly. Mike Kinsella’s songs engender sympathy for him – he’s obviously had some difficult times. It’s important for young men to reject cultural assumptions about masculinity to candidly talk about mental health issues and addiction, get support and make the most of life; by that measure Kinsella is brave and might just help others articulate or understand themselves. The problem with this album lies in the discrepancy between risks taken in subject mater – freely and frequently taken risks – and the prosaic, middle of the road music and lyrics.

Though the songs are heartfelt they lack much more than pained emotion. It conforms to a really quite staid ideal of cliché maudlin post-addiction relationship desperation songwriting. The relentless attempts to find a way of saying I’m suffering sucks any chance of transcending the mire – it’s a too-honest diary set to chords, humourless and unoriginal.

The general musicianship on the album is competent and its well produced. ‘The Desperate’, which includes an earworm-ish lick of pedal steel, will probably appear on some sort of advert. With that prediction in mind, perhaps the production rather than the content is the most depressing aspect of the album: the product of an individual’s suffering and alienation had been forced through a medium which stifles the development of any greater meaning due to genre expectations, the parameters of professionalism and tasteful, understated studio production. The ex-American Football man is a courageous artist but the music here is nothing to get excited about.


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