JEREMIAH NELSON | Drugs to Make You Sober
By David D. Robbins Jr. | Their Bated Breath
Jeremiah Nelson “Drugs to Make You Sober”
Jeremiah Nelson’s new solo record “Drugs to Make You Sober”, released just yesterday, feels like a real labor of love. It’s made up of seemingly traditional rock arrangements adorned with beautiful atmospheric and dreamy sonic wanderings. The first song, “Nothin to Lose”, begins with an eerie fluttering guitar warmed with twinkling keyboard and lush low-light vocal harmony. The song’s effect is devastating, as its sad tones meld slowly into a crush of electric guitar, steady drums, vibrant keyboard chords and a wall of sound. It’s one of the best songs of this year.
There’s something lonely and heartbreaking hiding underneath Nelson’s sonic layerings. These songs are about feeling lost, drinking, nostalgia in romance, journeying and finding one’s self, in part through music. On the majestic, “Skin To Touch”, Nelson sings about a sort of Midwestern ennui: “You can drive all night and get nowhere / Eighteen wheels spinning in thin air / Getting only served after last call / Counting seconds between lightning and thunder … / I find diamonds in the dirt” — before the song bursts into these run-on lyrics about a resurrection-through-music, “Then my ears begin to ring / And I heard my voice begin to sing / And I felt my fingers on the strings / I know the future’s gonna sting.” It’s simply stunning. There are shades of Bob Dylan lyricism, the poetic vocal splintering and instrumental build of The Decemberists and the odd beauty of Elvis Perkins, all wrapped up in this rock and country-tinged song serving as a dynamic call to music.
A scratchy guitar noise and heavy drumming blends into an electric guitar riff, metronomic drum tap and keyboard to open the title track. The song morphs into a full rock out. Nelson lets out some of the first-half steam with two slower tracks, “Good As Gone” and “Show to Show”. The latter is more akin to Jose Gonzalez, a sleepy acoustic guitar-based melody with imagery about the vagabond’s lifestyle of drinking, never-ending pavement and multiple apartments. Nelson ends the record in a unique way, with a 16-minute song entitled “Soundscape 082610″, which reminded me of the moody driftings of J. Irvin Dally’s epically beautiful 27-minute, “The Countryside of Southern Illinois and the Daydreams That Almost Got Me to 19 Years”. Note: Nelson plays guitar, harmonica, keyboards and sings, but he also has a ton of help from friends on this record.