Sunday, December 8, 2013

Album Review: Golgotha by Human Behavior - "A musical UFO"

The album "Golgotha" by Human Behavior is like a musical UFO. After multiple listens I know that I heard something but I cannot really identify what I heard, what I experienced. Oh yeah, sure, Andres Parada along with a collective of talented musicians creates luscious rootsy arrangements with truly engaging tones and melodies that are compositionally recognizable as dark folk songs but the mind twisting lyrics and the manner in which they are delivered (by Andres and a woman's voice or voices) turn them into something more. Some of the songs (to me) feel more like hymnals sung by Appalachian Holy rollers. Others feel like dark fables and yes, some feel like contrarian indie folk that tries to be weird for the sake of just being weird.

The lyrics are so abstract. Sometimes with great affect. In The Drone they sing (I think), "the bees all sting in unison... the drone like arcade chorus in .... brother took papa's switch to see if violence throbs twice beneath that tree..." The song feels like a brooding and rather heart wrenching gothic play of sorts that seem to have undercurrents of child abuse. Sometimes the twisted lyrics are amusing and seemingly nonsensical like in Crag that moves like someone being chased during a game of tag. Andres sings, "what would I do if flames improved my eyesight" and "cuz I want to feel eight again.... I want a dear's head... I don't want to be attractive."  The hyperactive banjo / guitar 40 second brawl called Odocoileus Virginianus should be in a Wes Anderson Film. In Always Cold (Sialia sialis) is a song that sprawls forth with visions of what seems like someones entire life instead of a reflection of it. Like a lot of Golgotha it is laced with humor, brutal honesty and abstract poetic lines set against violin and acoustic guitar, "the trees grew beards and eyes. it was no surprise that the fingers grabbed my throat and choked... burning people with burning willows" and much later...."You'll die and you're ok with it.... you'll die and you're ok with it."

When I first pushed play on Golgotha I didn't care too much for these songs. The beautiful melodies almost captured me instantly but the really strange lyrics just seemed to far out there for me. Things didn't click with me- so I left these songs alone and walked away. That was three weeks ago and I have revisited this material many times, so much so that I often wake up with some of these songs in my head. Songs like Vintage Dad, the aforementioned Always Cold, the stand out Earth, Heart, Hearth and especially the haunting The Drone. Finally, I gave myself up to the music. I stopped trying to figure it out or judge the reasons behind the sometimes disjointed words. Like all great art there is a sense of mystery behind the sounds and words. In Human Behavior's own words this album "explores the romance of modern religion and it's relationship to suburban loneliness."  In the end, what these songs are about is less important to me than how they make me feel and that they make me feel. And they do that in spades.

In the large expanse of music and artists / bands that make up the "indie" world it feels like Human Behavior might be the outsiders, the freaks and geeks in the community. Another reason to love them. I hope you let their songs get in your head. Kudos to Andres (and his fellow Human Behaviorists) for a wonderfully strange, and strangely moving album.

Robb Donker

Human Behavior Official Site

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