Blunt Objects – Blobjects

 Blunt Objects – Blobjects

Blunt Objects – Blobjects – Album Review

Always awesome to have this man in the mix once again…I’ve been having a great time listening to the music of Bill Owens in his various projects and bands throughout this year, and hopefully there’s a few of you out there that have been feeling the same way I do.  You musicians out there…you realize that you’ve been getting completely outworked by Mr. Owens, yes?  Go ahead and tally up your albums so far in 2023…take your time, take your time…I’ll wait.  So what did you count up to?  One?  Two?  Did you have yourself a really productive year and reach three whole albums?  Golly!  Good for you.  Don’t get me wrong…ultimately I’m probably happy you made ANY music if you did – but as for Bill here?  He’s on something like his tenth record or so in the past 365 days…pretty close to that realm, give or take a FEW albums – you see what I’m saying?  Did I mention he was turning SEVENTY in about a week from here?  I maintain…you probably have a FANTASTIC work ethic I’m sure…but y’ain’t holding a candle to Bill y’all.

It’s the second day in a row I’ve pushed play on a record that seems to already be in full swing during that very first moment you listen to…so consider yourselves warned…”Rules” will instantly pump out sound atcha without apologies.  Blunt Objects has proudly embraced the weird, the wonderful, and the strange as one throughout the course of its existence as far as I’ve personally experienced, and this album called Blobjects is no exception to the rule in that regard.  “Rules aren’t made to be broken – they’re made to make things work” as Bill will tell ya on this opening track, and I’d reckon the man is right about that.  I’m also a fan of him singing about how “rules are good when order is required, but order has a border that includes those who make the rules – they should follow the rules they make.”  It’s always such a pleasure to listen to what this dude comes up with I tell ya…Owens makes music that is practically guaranteed to give your brain a workout, and he has become just as well-known for his insightful wisdom as he is for his offbeat humor & uniquely sincere perspective.  “Rules” ain’t any kind of typical tune…which to me, is really what actually makes it approach a level of brilliance that perhaps only a handful of folks will ever understand.  He might not necessarily be singing about the “Rules” that apply to traditional methods of making music, but he sure ain’t following the illusion of whatever those may be either.  So in a sense, “Rules” might be about “Rules,” but at the same time, it follows none – you still following me?  You’ll get what I mean when you hear it for yourself…but this isn’t the kind of bass, drums, guitar tune you find in half the scene…nor is it the typical style of Electro that would dominate the other half…there are no ‘normal’ hooks for you to latch onto…it’s music for your mind.

As I’ve pointed out throughout the course of listening to Blunt Objects this year, Bill’s got a different voice than you’re probably used to hearing in the music on your playlist.  Obviously, that’s going to be an obstacle for some…at least until they grow accustomed to it if they’re willing to give it a chance – but for others, you’ll recognize the significant level of identity it actually gives his catalog as a whole.  There’s simply no mistaking Owens for anyone else, and personally, I love that.  Sometimes, things just fit…that’s the best way I can describe it, you know?  I remember a friend telling me about a band called Death Cab For Cutie nearly twenty-five years ago now…I’ll never forget it actually – he said, “when they get it right, they REALLY get it right” – and he left it at that.  Of course I devoured their catalog and still love just about everything that Ben Gibbard and his various projects create to this very day – but there is absolutely a major difference between hearing anything he does that comes out good from what comes out great.  The recipe more or less never changes, but the results somehow do.  I suppose the same can be said of Bill Owens too when it comes right down to it, that’s what got me thinking about that quote from an old friend.  Like, I looked at “Rules” and I was fairly certain I’d enjoy that tune from the lyrics I was reading.  When I looked at “Looking Glass Heroes” on paper, I was actually way less convinced that it was gonna hit the mark for some reason.  Yet here we are, and I have to admit the opposite.  I love the way that Bill sings this song and the sincerity he brings to it.  He’s got a sound that emulates the weary traveler that has seen the world and what it has to offer, and that completely works to this song’s favor.  It’s a fairly straightforward theme and timeless topic he’s singing about, but he’s made it truly special to listen to…that’s the magic of Bill at his best – he too, instinctively knows how to turn the good into great, and just like my dear old friend would say, when he gets it right, he REALLY gets it right.  “Looking Glass Heroes” was one of those tracks that nearly appeared normal…then I heard it & realized it wasn’t at all.

That’s not to say that our favorite artists aren’t human too…they’re every bit as fallible as the rest of us, and art continues to remain just as subjective as it always has been.  For me, I get a whole lot out of “Rules” and “Looking Glass Heroes” from the themes to the melodies they present us with.  “I Want Your Love” was what I’d respectfully call a distant third.  What I liked about “I Want Your Love” most was that it’s actually quite an interpretive type of tune.  We assume that it’s directed towards one person based on the way that it’s written and how we typically tend to observe love from a more individualistic type of lens – but there’s a chance that a track like this could apply more generically to include just about all of us.  Maybe Bill is seeking out universal adoration…that could be a possibility, though the line of “you can hang those nice silk stockings on my bedpost, any night” does suggest that he’s got a more specific person in mind.  Anyhow.  Outside of that, you could potentially expand this concept to include everyone, even yourself – “I Want Your Love” is about the lengths we’re willing to go to attain love, what we’re willing to do for it, and what we’re readily willing to give up in exchange for it.  The music is probably my favorite part of this particular tune…sometimes I listen to the DNA of Bill’s songs and I genuinely find it staggering that he found an angle to get in there as a singer, and this would definitely be one of those times.  “I Want Your Love” should be nearly impossible to work with really.

When he includes his words and lyrics with his music posted online, I tend to sit back and read them first before I even hear the song in many cases…I just like the man’s way of writing and the poetry he creates.  Bill Owens has a mind that works so much differently than most, and I freakin’ love it.  Plus, I’m usually way more often surprised by how something will sound in the finished product versus what he’s written and how it might sound in my head…and yes, I dig that too.  “Things That Feel Illegal” is straight-up awesome as a concept, and I love that he’s started it out with the line: “Items on a list that’s never long enough” – because we SHOULD feel that way about the decadent moments where we experience “things that almost seem too good to be true,” should we not?  Our list of guilty pleasures should never be able to find enough paper as far as I’m concerned…which I suppose basically implies that we shouldn’t feel guilty about any of it at all – these “Things That Feel Illegal” are a part of living LIFE to the fullest, and I’ll be damned if I ain’t here to do exactly that with my time on Earth.  Bill and I have a lot in common based on this list he’s provided in this song…”skinny dipping under moonlight” – roger that sir!  “Smoking pot on my front porch” – *cough *cough…check that too!  Though he did end up changing that line to “drinking wine on my front porch” in the official recording, which I’ve admittedly yet to develop a taste for.  But how about “meat on a stick, almost any” – I’m hearing you on crystal clear FM my brother!   In fact, one of my favorite memories of all time was heading down south to Six Flags, buying myself a MASSIVE turkey leg, and waving it around like I was a barbarian as I walked around the theme park…it was glorious, and freakin’ TASTY y’all.  But you get the point…”Things That Feel Illegal” is all about indulgence & all the “things that make a life worth the living” – may your own lists be plentiful.

“*Subscription Required” made me laugh out loud for all the right reasons.  It is not every single day that you’re going to come across a song that takes on religion like this one does.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of songs that do tackle the subject on a surface level, but they’re not getting to the heart of the matter like this one does.  “*Subscription Required” is proudly blasphemous, advocating logically on behalf of sinning MORE than you probably do, and willing to cite all the reasons as to why you should, while also pointing out many hypocrisies in the faith-based way of life.  So yep…I mean…I’m just gonna lay it out there simple and plain – if you’re the religious type, chances are, you’ll find something or many somethings about “*Subscription Required” to be offended by…that’s the reality here.  If you’re not the religious type, and you’re a degenerate heathen beast like me, chances are you’ll find so much of this song to be outright hilarious, insightful, and dare I say ACCURATE.  From the opening line of “how much sin, I wonder, does it take to go to hell?” to how “if Jesus died for our sins, don’t let it be for nothing – go out and sin some more right now so he didn’t die in vain” – I mean…whether you’re offended or not, you should be able to objectively recognize brilliance when you hear it.  There are some equally fantastic spots in the music of this song too that surround Bill’s vocals as well…this would definitely be akin to the strange insightfulness we know and love from Blunt Objects, and I am absolutely HERE. FOR. IT.  Owens is willing to lead by example too y’all…”a little greed, some vanity, some slothiness, pride (for sure), and lust (indeed)” – the great “Things That Feel Illegal,” for the most part.  #EnjoyYOURLifeYOUOnlyGetONE!

“Miss L” is interesting for sure.  According to the notes I’ve got here, what we’re hearing is the original version of the song recorded by his band DID NOT! from way back in 1985, “recovered and remastered” by Jim Waters at Waterworks.  I get my information straight from the source of course, so I have no reason to question it…but with that being said, Bill – how long have you been turning seventy for?  It’s either a case of we’re talking about the music itself being made way back in ’85 and the vocals added into it now in the present, or Owens is basically immortal because he actually sounds the same as you’d hear him singing today on the rest of these tunes.  So…I’m thinking it’s probably a piece of information that’s missing there…I have no reason to question the source, but my ears are telling me that this is the Bill we know and love and have been listening to all year long as he is now.  In any event…I really like the music on this track, and I personally feel like I get why Owens would have wanted to bring this back and preserve it.  It’s got this like…incredible melody that’s fuzzy and distorted and blurry and beautiful…it’s exactly the kind of cut that fits snugly into the Blunt Objects catalog that the world probably ain’t gonna understand, and that’s just fine.  Thematically, we’re probably looking at a “Mrs. Robinson” or The Graduate type scenario here, filtered through the skewed sincerity of a Blunt Objects melody that makes it oddly endearing…I like it.  When Bill reaches the end of his chorus, and ends it on “Miss L,” he’s inadvertently created quite the hook…that’s a part of the song we look forward to each and every time we hear it.  This was a genuinely pleasant surprise though…I feel like this piece of the past was justified in finding another shot in the present day…there’s something subtly magical about this track that makes “Miss L” feel like it wins you over without any forced effort…it’s naturally artistic and outright alluring.

Anytime that you discover some kind of strange gem like “Miss L,” you end up in a situation where you have a very tough spot in the lineup to follow…and I’d reckon that’s the case with something like “Eastern Sunset” in this particular instance.  I don’t know that it makes the impact that it probably should…but I do still like it.  It’s actually this song that made me realize there’s more in common between Blunt Objects and my favorite band of all-time, R.E.M., than perhaps I ever realized.  This song gets pretty close to material you’d find on their album Up, or in songs like “Every Day Is Yours To Win” from their final album Collapse Into Now.  The artistic side of their sound…the organic and natural melodies that have always made that band as enticing and timeless as they are.  “Eastern Sunset” has some excellent chord progressions in behind it all that form the backbone of the music, and it really works wonders when it comes right down to it.  They’re subtle shifts, but they’re mesmerizing if I’m being honest with ya…listen to how Blunt Objects shifts into the chorus of this track and you’ll know what I mean.  Lyrically…structurally…heck, even melodically if I’m being truthful, “Eastern Sunset” is almost a deviant cut in the Blunt Objects catalog in the sense that it’s actually a bit more of a normal song than you’d expect to find in the music of this project.  I’ll readily admit, it took me a few spins or more to break out of the hypnotic spell that “Miss L” seemed to put on me, but eventually I did come around without question…”Eastern Sunset” might even be one of this album’s more accessible tunes.

I really liked the use of harmonies on “Intrigue” – it was very noticeable and a smart move by Bill to help separate this track a bit from the rest & give it an extra dimension of depth.  I’ll be real with ya – after harpin’ about struggling to find my way out of “Miss L” and into “Eastern Sunset,” it seemed to take me even more effort to come back around to the weirdness I love about Blunt Objects, which is found in abundance on “Intrigue.”  I listen to this song, and my very first thought is that this SHOULD be the kind of track I absolutely love by Bill’s band.  I have the feeling it’s probably the addition of a few elements that are in a higher frequency at the very top of the mix that prevented me from loving “Intrigue” as much as I felt like I could have…you’ll know’em when you hear’em…it’s a bit of a risky sound to have included, and I don’t know that everyone out there is going to welcome that with open ears.  It’s not nails on a chalkboard either, but nearly that same discomforting effect, you know what I mean?  That being said, it could always just be me…maybe that’s just the way I’m hearing it.  Other than that one very specific aspect of “Intrigue,” I’m of the mind this track is a complete and total winner.  I love the music, I love the mystery in the words, I love the mood and the whole feeling you get in this song – it’s like the most subtle anthem you’ll find to a post-apocalyptic world before the apocalypse has even happened.  Like Bill is sitting there on the porch where he likes to drink his wine, watching the world burn down in front of him without panic, observing on what he sees without feeling like he needs to run to the bomb shelter, you follow me?  There’s a heavy feeling of acceptance that encases the vibe of this song like a shroud…a knowing that ‘it is what it is’ & that our next precious moments ahead are dictated by a history filled with choices none of us living had any control over, and that have already long passed.  I’ll take a little jingle jangle in the mix any day if it leads to art like this…it took some real effort to focus beyond that aspect of the music, but the rest is the authentic craft of Blunt Objects at its absolute finest.

“This Is How It Ends” practically made me wanna cry y’all.  Think of the life of a man that’s about to turn seventy years-old, and all the beautiful, extraordinary progress they’ve seen throughout a lifetime like that from the heart of the 50s on up.  I mean, hell, Bill has practically witnessed the entire history and evolution of modern-day music for example…let alone the microwave and all those wonderful shiny things we rely on to make our lives as simple as they are now.  All of the books, the poetry, the art, the movies that have been created over the past seventy years…it’s STAGGERING to think about – and yet, “This Is How It Ends?”  I’ll be real with you – it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to not look at the world like Owens describes it in this song…and that’s fucking heartbreaking, excuse my language.  If he wasn’t so RIGHT about his observations, it wouldn’t affect me at all…but that’s just the thing folks – he’s as spot-on as he’s ever been…it’s sad, scary, horrific, and all-too REAL.  You know it, I know it, and deep down, we all walk around FEELING like it, each and every day right now…because we believed we’re supposed to be better than we’ve been over these past seven years or so.  We’ve been led down a rabbit-hole to our own oblivion, and the most sane among us – people just like Bill – have no other choice other than to sit back, observe, and throw up their hands…because with every day that passes, it seems like there is less hope.  We believed we were better than this…but our history books will show us directly that we never were; we were lucky enough to have our madness dormant for a great many years, that’s it, that’s all.  “And so, this is how the world ends?”  Probably.  Now that the madness has returned, been encouraged, and our leadership is so apathetic & afraid to make the changes necessary to protect us from ourselves – I suppose I figure it’s just a matter of time.  All those books, all those movies, the poetry, the art, the music…none of it will matter, nor will it provide us with any kind of defense against what afflicts us all.  JESUS BILL – LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE with this song, will ya?  It is perilously devastating, and far, far too real.  There’s so much of me that wants to tell ya it ain’t anything like he’s described on “This Is How It Ends” – yet I can only confirm what you already know…this IS how it will end, not with a bang, but with a collective whimper that laments what could have been as we exhale our final breaths.  Bill will make it to seventy…and I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll be very lucky reach that age myself.  Stay strong y’all…embrace kindness…and do your best to stand up to the increasing presence of pure evil we’ve been allowing to creep into our lives more every day.  No joke…”This Is How It Ends” is a completely amazing song…it’s powerfully thought-provoking to the point where you should feel sick to your stomach for all the truths you’ll find in this final track, but it’s undoubtedly brilliant all the same…this is award-worthy writing that should scare the living daylights outta ya for how real it is.  You’ll rarely, if ever, find direct, unfiltered honesty like you’ll hear in this song – please pay attention.

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