Written by Liner Notes contributor: Shannon Cleary.
“Write this down, he scrawls again, something must be made of this.”
-David Wojahn “No Gesture: Ceremony” (from Mystery Train)
As I divert my focus to Keep Your Head Up, a formation of ideas surrounds me immediately. The noticeable lyrical intricacies introduce commentaries regarding religion, societal roles and personal struggles. The group’s musical approach can only exist given the history of their travels in the past two years (physical and personal). It is also a record that can only be perceived as a whole. It is an accomplished example of how a record can achieve a single coherent thought that unveils itself through the subtle mastery of basic storytelling.
It would be an understatement to claim that Jameson Price approaches each of his creative outlets with an unparalleled passion. If you examine the Silent Music Revival, it’s his love letter to the music scene in Richmond that he adores and a form of cinema that he refuses to allow to be forgotten. Whether it’s Our Stable Violent Star or Lobo Marino, Price doesn’t hide behind masks or facades. He fully embraces each project for their virtues and promise in such a way that invites a truly invigorating experience in musical exploration.
Keep Your Head Up begins with an instrumental introduction. This is important because the transition from this track into “The Pallbearer” sets the tone for how the motions of this record flow. Laney Sullivan’s voice is the first to be heard as our tale’s exposition unveils itself. As soon joined by Price’s harmonizing voice, the strength in their harmonies is realized in a blissful reverie. The rest of the record flourishes with handclaps, vocal percussion, varied instrumentation and delectable arrangements that help make this one of the local scene’s crowning achievements of the past year.
There are two tracks that I find to be the most fascinating. “Animal Hands” was co-written with the late Nathan Joyce. Joyce and Price had been creative collaborators for several years. As this song came to fruition, Joyce was discovering a more acoustic-driven side of himself as Price reveled in the experimental facets. This song is a middle ground that expresses Joyce’s influence on Price’s songwriting. In many ways, the commentaries regarding religion that are heard through Keep Your Head Up could easily be a reaction to the loss of a best friend. The two most difficult things to understand in this world may be love and death. The two are interchangeable in how they evoke such emotion out of us all. Yet, they are things we can only be so prepared to cope with and understand. When I hear “Animal Hands,” I don’t only think of the literal imagery layered throughout. I think of a level of uncertainty that inhabits us all in moments of distress. The different kinds of animal hands shouted at the end of the song could more or less be one’s inability to stare at ideas and images that have instantly grown unfamiliar in light of tragedy. In those final instances of “Animal Hands,” there is a painful realization that the things we consider to know so well are still lessons to be learned.
The second track that I’d like to discuss is “No Land.” There is a wonderful musical exchange that opens the song. It involves Lobo Marino using their voices as percussive instruments. I can only imagine that this instrumental approach was something absorbed from their travels all throughout South America. These travels are what Keep Your Head Up is documenting. A song like this allows us to see the world through the traveled eyes of Price and Sullivan. The final result is a memorable close that rewards its listener for investing in the journeys of these songwriters.
What does the title Keep Your Head Up suggest? It may be a statement to abide when faced with tragedy. It may be a statement that adheres to remaining optimistic in terrible times. It could be a modus operandi for anyone who makes the decision to travel abroad. It could be a desire to fight to see everything in the most positive of lights in order to
allow the world that surrounds us to make sense. If not to make sense, perhaps to be tolerable and our actions can be progressive as opposed to self-destructive. Although Keep Your Head Up exhibits a sense of distraught sadness, the lingering feeling is one of hope that prevails against all odds.
"Art is dead. Long live (Lobo Marino).”
—Walter Serner / Jonathan Vassar
Purchase "Keep Your Head Up" by Lobo Marino via their bandcamp site:
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