I saw Retribution Gospel Choir (a side project of Alan Sparhawk from Low) at the Varsity Friday night, opening for Mark Kozelek. Best I could tell, Alan walked on stage already fully possessed and speaking in tongues. Imagine grabbing Raggedy Andy by the sacroiliac and shaking him as hard as you can while he sings about salvation and damnation and nothing in between. It was a little like staring at a flashbulb: a long after-image.
Mark Kozelek and Phil Carney (whom Mark never acknowledged on stage) played two hours of mid-tempo sixteenth-note patterns under Mark’s four-note recitative. Mark has a lovely voice, but all the songs were squeezed into the emotional range between amusement and ennui. As an artifact of marriage and fatherhood, I spend a surprising amount of time in the range between delight and jubilation, with occasional forays into fury and terror. I’m sure I’m still capable of amusement and ennui, but they are low-amplitude signals that get lost way down in the mix. This is the reason I spend so much of my time listening to second line: You and your children and your ninety-year-old aunt all march down the street and raise a finger to death.