Your God Is Dead to Me Now
Iron Horse Records
Existentialism: hard to define, but you can always identify it when you hear it. That sums up this recent album by Athens' Five Eight. Lead singer Mike Mantione struggles with traditional faith and his opinion of God Almighty over the back beat of powerful and well-crafted classic rock chords. Opener "Sad Eyes" recalls some of Roky Erickson's best warped-out folk-rock, and soaring guitar chords punctuate the plaintive lament "Maybe tomorrow I'll live without lies..." What lies is he alluding to? Perhaps the bitter title track can shed some light. He used to believe, still goes to church, and has that Catholic guilt than can only be driven into your knuckles by a bitter nun armed with a twelve-inch ruler. A happy Andy Griffith whistle can't paste over his confusion and isolation, and while this isn't anti-Christian music, it's not something the Sunday school teacher will want to deal with in class.
Once we've gotten the main emotional issue on the table, other pains float up to the scummy surface of his garden-pond life. "Motorcycle" bemoans his parents' career (Acting), "The Ballad of Frankie" bemoans abandonment, and even suicide looks like an option in "Mom's Best Boy." But under all this angsty breathlessness is some of the cleanest musicianship of today's up-and-coming bands. Besides Mantione and his bass-playing buddy Dan Horowitz, there's lead guitarist Sean Dunn and a guy named Patrick Ferguson back on the drum kit. Mantione's vocals are strong and clear, you never struggle to hear the words as he wrangles pure guilt out of his vocal chords. This band has been floating around in one form or another since 1996, they've five other discs under their collective belt, but their last project saw the light in 2004. I'm not sure what ashram or monastic retreat they've been hiding in, but Five Eight preaches solid, engaging rock and roll that disdains today's digital gimmicks and does what rock and roll does best: rail against the storm of life like King Lear on the heath.