US - New York - Full Moon 103 - 02/24/05
I Am Singing to You from My Room
This overlooked Michael Gira 2004 solo album's title isn't misleading at all: this album is personal to the utmost. And from a man such as Gira, this is a truly haunting sound. It's almost as though Mr. Gira is singing the songs to me from my room. Proper names are used in songs. Here he talks about "Jacky", his sister, "Lena", and "Rosalee". It's of course left up to the listener to imagine who these people are, which is a beautiful technique that honestly not enough lyricists use. There are also two songs that both have a title and do not: "No Words Untitled" and "No Words, No Title". In the latter untitled song, you can even hear Gira cough and clear his throat, which, totally astonishingly, is in tempo and style with the song!
The biggest thing that I'm always caught by when I listen to any Michael Gira related project (The Swans, The Angels of Light, his solo material) is his sheer honesty. This is the sound of a singer/songwriter with absolutely nothing to lose. It's the sound of a man who lost his fear of speaking out years ago. And I'm simply amazed by how well Gira handles his legacy. After being in a band as successful as The Swans were, a lesser fellow couldn't make music like this. It just wouldn't work. But somehow this one wears his rock star pants without a shred of indignity. It's a shame not many people were listening to this last year (that happened because it didn't get any press); there are several great songs on this album. I find that Gira's lyrics and stories carry this album almost completely. His stories and words have always seemed very literary to me, but in an unabashed, totally uncencored and opened-up way. In "Destroyer", the 3rd song on the album, Gira sings: "Here she comes dressed in white/her mouth
is filled with flames/her skin is black/her fingers trace the diamonds in her veins/Here she comes down from the sun/to wash this country clean/Comes down for us/down from the dust/to murder what remains/Here she comes/now dressed in red/to heal this ruined race/I know somewhere/Where there's a god/He's lying
at her feet." It is a personal album, but lyrically, Gira is fond of using a technique that makes his words about his life and about cosmic truths at the same time.
Track 7 is an incredibly good cover of the Angels of Light song "Rose of Los Angeles". Some of the words are different, and he changes the melody a bit. Again, I want to use the word "haunting". Hearing this is almost like hearing some weird distant memory of this song. "Purple Creek" is a pretty song with
gross lyrics. This one (basically) is about a man that's going to save us that lives in a creek with mosquitos. Gira says: "I know someone who is waiting for us down in a gully/filtering the mud/And I know a creature who's intentions are insane/down in purple creek/mosquitos sing him praise/mosquitos lift his beard/mosquitos nest his eyes/mosquito fingers in his brain/mosquito message in his veins."
I think "Let it Be You" is the best song on this album, and one of the best songs I've ever heard, honestly. "Let it be you who comes through this town with his sword/and let it be you that levels the rich and lies down with the poor/and let it be you that faulters and
rises again again/and let it be you whose crimes are the crimes without any sin/hardened with age/with two hands that could break/let it be you."
"All Souls Rising", one of the last tracks, is the only song on the album that might remind you of Gira's old industrial days. It's a sound that, even here, on a solo album, doesn't sound the least bit tired or played out. The album finishes with a song called "Mean Monster Mike", which is apparently a
nickname some little children gave Mr. Gira. Funny. Mean Monster Mike is coming to tickle you!
Objectively speaking, and stepping away from how damned cool Gira is for a moment, this is certainly not an album for everyday. It's so barren. We're talking three instruments the whole album: Gira's baritone, his guitar, and his lyrics. All three ceaselessly pound away at something in you. Exactly what
that is I'm still figuring out, but it really seems tiring listening to this. It's that good.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks