Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"The Story of Our Lives" by The Violet Burning (early review with samples i hope you won't listen to)

TH3 FANTA5T1C MACH1N3 (ones and zeros) by thevioletburning black as death (skulls and crossbones) by thevioletburning

The new Violet Burning album, "The Story of Our Lives"  is really three albums  (34 songs) in one:
or better yet, a triple album (back in the day, six sides!):
  • TH3 FANTA5T1C MACH1N3Liebe über Alles
  • Black as Death
  • Liebe über Alles
...and  true to the title, it's the story of my life; probably yours, too.

I am so glad frontman Michael Pritzl  went through with the bold vision to complete a triple album in times like these. Several songs are embedded in this post.

But even they cannot prepare you for the impact of the unified experience of travelling the narrative of the three albums.  I have been literally travelling with them, often having just enough time in the car for an album or two.

As with any triple disc, it is too early to post a full-blown review, there is a lot to take in.
I almost hope you don't listen to the music samples on this seems impossible to do justice to them ripped from their context (:

But I couldn't wait to review, and preview the songs for you. And I don't want you to wait to download or order this set.  I already know that each disc would be a keeper by itself.  And I  already know the sum is far bigger and better than the parts.

And  let me say that I have been a Violet Burning fan since I discovered them in January 1991, the week the First Gulf War broke out (Thanks to Diane, who handed me a cassette..  with a smiling, "I think you might like this.") ...and I am speechless.

That doesn't mean, however, that I can't mention a short speech here by way of review. (:

To me, this is a quasi-concept album (like U2's "No Line on the Horizon" almost was, and I think we need more "full albums" with a story arc in these days of single downloads (Here are some recent examples from the likes of Linkin Park and David Crowder, see "Gregory of Nyssa and Green Day: death/birth of the concept of the concept album")
  It', well. the story of "our" lives, as the title implies...the "our" being the band, Michael's  life in microcosm....and the 'our' beiing inclusive enough to sweep up anyone brave and honest enough to enter the narrative and let it personalize you.

I don;t want to say too much about the "story"  as I woukd prefere its fluidity to work in you as it wills.
It almost reads like a road trip, with several references to travelling, especially in (back to?) California . The  two California song titles: "Mojave," and "Nowhere, CA."   perfectly localize and universalize the story 
And look for the project title to work into the lyrics towars the end for some hints as to theme.

There are couple lyrical /images I can't not mention: "light" and "machine."

This is an ultimately  very encouraging (though maybe exhausting to take in all at once) journey to take.  It's kind of a full circle trip through faith , through fallenness, and back to faith on a higher level (From simplicity to complexity to the simplicity on the other side of complexity), with some amazing evocative worship moments laced throughout, especially on the last album (and last song "Made for You"  is one of those classic swelling worship anthems).  Yet even early on, it's one part chilling "1984" scifi and  part sidestory romantic comedy..  Though the second album's title might suggest it's the darkest of the three albums, some of the darkness emerges early on the first album.  Thus the need for light.

I love tracing lyric threads and  intertexting between  the songs.  There is a leitmotif of a "light" motif (cheap pun, but true).  "Where It All Begins" with its  "leave your light on"  merges thematically into  "with our lights out/this is the way home" as the next song  "Lights Out" starts.  Is "lights out" a positive or negatrive image?  Yes.. I make the case it's both.  I see Michael suggesting it's a good idead to have our own lights out, in light of the Light.
I also like the Cohen reference : "all broke inside/It's how the light gets in."

As a bonus... these songs are incredibly singable!  This of course only deepens our commitment to the unfolding storyline's arc.

And prepares us for the machine.  Anyone on a journey (especially a Christian journey) will soon have to wrestle, and rage against, the "machine" (See
.There is fluidity in how one interprets the machine (system, institution etc).  But, reminiscent of  Pink Floyd's "Welcome  to the Machine".. we meet 'brother" (think 1984, remember), and it's clear the machine in that song is the (Christian) industry music machine:

We met them in Nashville
Distribution knows just what you need
"We'll make you safe for the whole family"
"Sing 'Jesus' a few more times
And we'll all make a whole lot of money
brother will guide you
brother knows just what you need


The story of your life,  even if you've never been offered a record contract.

I'll quite commenting on lyrical content..even though I've barely started the first album!

On to the sonics:  in a  way, this project it feels like  the sequel (or three sequels to) the band's most recent studio album, "Drop Dead,"  (In fact the lyrical theme of lights began there with that album's opening invitation: "turn off all the lights and let's begin") The project is almost as if the atmosphere of the  VB era defined by "Self-Titled"/Demos/Distortion is Our Friend/ Plastic and Elastic//Stranger in This Place  and its grunge and vibe was  filterred through some of the band's more positive, pop-rock and worshipfulo albums ("Faith and Devotions" and "This is the Moment,"  but never in a way that's rehash or   cheaply self-referential .. and always more than the sum of these parts.

Jeff Schroeder, former Violet  (Self-Titled era) and now a  Smashing Pumpkin adds some smashing guitar on a few tracks.  Worth the price of the discs for that alone! 

In other words, whatever era of The Violets you tend to prefer or circulate in, this album will work for you, and also yank your respect for the band to a whole new level.

If  you've never heard the Violets, it is often said that if you like U2, The Cure, Radiohead, The Prayer Chain et al, you'll probably like them.  But I dare say that if those are not your bands, you might even love The Violets (in this current incarnation), anyway.

I love that in "brother part one" and "brother part two (the lights have gone), the Violets have used a compteer voice background behind the vocals..ironically to give voice to  human questions .  Thos works well here, and of course nods to Radiohead, who  pioneered this with 'Fitter, Happier".  U2 has also been been incorporating this technique in the liturgy of their current tour. But the Violet version is particularly chilling.

That should be impossible.

I am a sucker for a Violet moment of ethereal guitar or vocal (a la "I Am Electric"), and those magical, mystical moments happen again.

That should be implausible.

Who could not love a classic Violet moment of crunching guitars, and near screamo.   Skib has celebrated that "Whooping Llamas" are back, but in a new millenium way.  Those moments happen
again, and shake the speakers.

That should not happen, but does.

The music is not the radical  and jolting departure from the previous trajectory that  subversively characterized the move from "Strength" to "Self-Titled."  But somehow I sense this project is an equivalent quantum leap and "punctuated equilibrium moment in the band's history and future.   As I previously hinted, it's almost a sequel to the previous album and simultaneously new terrain.  I have no idea what they will do to top this classic.  But they have done it before. 

There are not the extremely low moments of the Self Titled album; those moments where you feel like you are in despair and hell.  But amazingly, and against all odds, it feels like precisely because  the lows aren't as low as then, the highs  now are even higher.

In summary, thanks  to Michael and team for  a tremendously moving  triple album ..with  no dead weight (songs you skip...even the Beatles didn't pull that off with a double album).
A pastor friend from a small town once shared his hesitancy to broadcast his sermons on the radio, and teh references and stories seemed so local and limited.  But he soon found that "the more specific I was, the more universal the message was."  "The Story of Our Lives" brilliantly has just enough  specifics (the California towns, Chicago etc) to bring the emotional narrative arc within reach of us all, and   touch and heal us in places we may not have known needed it. Over the soundscape of three albums, the narrative moves us out of the machine, and  into  the Light of Jesus ...and the beauty of it, all without forcing the mention of Jesus "a few more times."

The project can ordered here in a variety of formats and packages ...including some with  videos, T-shirts..some even  including lunch with Michael and Disneyland with the band!  The physical CDs will not be shipped for a few weeks,  can be purchased now as an immediate download.

Read some early reviews here.. Several music samples are  embedded in this post.

Enjoy.  Buy. Entter into the story of my life, yours...and The Story.
It never gets I can tell these albums won't.

Later note: Lots of song samples below, and I added a bit more to my review, click this:

"if you get nothing out of "nowhere," you are not saved (;"


the violet burning from the violet burning on Vimeo.

the | story | of | our | lives | by thevioletburning

the violet burning from the violet burning on Vimeo.

my name is night from the violet burning on Vimeo.

the violet burning from the violet burning on Vimeo.

rock is dead from the violet burning on Vimeo.

FACT0RY CRA5H PR3V13W M1X by thevioletburning


Bonus, some vintage/classics for any newbies out there:
the violet burning by thevioletburning

More?  Click "the violet burning" below

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