by Joe Gutierrez (@steadylean)
Beverly Tender’s “Lord Mayor Makes 1,000 Speeches” buries itself inside of us, ready for this winter’s hibernation. It comes from the hearts and minds of Molly Hastings and Tristan Brooks. For me, it’s special knowing this record hails from North Carolina- a place I used to daydream of living and becoming me in, a place where I spent a night in a motel room alone with a supper of Chinese take-out, a place where I kissed another person on a stoop, in a library, in a dorm room. This work is, it seems, about the separation, the loss, and the not knowing. Feeling separate from yourself, your feelings, and those you feel for. The loss of love, a friend, a certainty and confidence in navigating this world alone. The not knowing. The mystery of it all.
“Wham-O-Blam-O” is a fitting title for the opening track. If you’ve got the tape, hiss hits, then welcomes four taps of wood on wood. The song couldn’t start with anything sparser, but- the short quiet is then disastered by guitar like ravaged aluminum and crackling wildfire. Punctures, stabs, punches. A blast, a shiver, a shatter... Sucking stars out of the sky and spitting them out. The tornado of pretty noise lets out a sustained sigh and morphs into a sweet tide pool traipse pepperminted with solemn sincerity. “Living Beasts Full Of Eyes” slithers in with shaker, then a tribal beat. Jagged cutting slicing guitars make themselves known. They let go for a moment of release, the drumming becomes experimental, hitting cymbals, snare rolls, and rims you wouldn’t expect. Three chords garnish every measure between spaces of light percussion and Hastings’ despairing vocal delivery. Hastings’ voice lets the words “pull out the fouton, leave the lights on” spill softly out, soon punctuated by the returning guitar chops and whirlpool bass. Where Hastings could easily toss a soaring anthemic chorus, she lets the instruments emphasize the emotions previously emitted from the sparse wordplay in each verse. The repetition of “I” and “you”, in each line itself, and as the lines are repeated again, highlights the phenomenal talent of Hastings to do more with less. What’s sung is what counts, and nothing more. It hits all right.
“Pretzel Drunk” twists like a pretzel and staggers in like a drunk. It’s the post-party head bob in the backseat of your best friend’s automobile. Summons up sung-along harmonies from your throat like a magnet. Brooks’ snare roll kicks off the song like a faulty wire sparking. Beverly Tender is a master of dynamics. Loud, soft, silence, space, surprise, repetition. These songs take you places. The harmonies on the chorus are breathtaking, underscored by sharp jagged distortion, pounding bass, and crashing cymbals. “Benji’s Song” starts off with simple guitar, one chord strummed lightly over and over. Vocals stretch out over oddball chord changes. Cymbal bell hit marks the change and pushes it into a new atmosphere. The verse returns like a dream that visits you in your sleep a week later. Or like remembering something you forgot. It is a sort of rebirth, blossoming with the lullabied line “I am a baby”.
“Refused to Name It” staggers in like an impending rainstorm. High guitar drips down slowly, hole-punched by the strum of lower strings, ‘til buoying bass and chattering drums creep in. Cymbals ring out like raindrops on a windshield and thunder crashing. “Wake up in a cold sweat, don’t talk about it”, sometimes we have to keep to ourselves when we feel like we’re falling apart. “Saltine Complex” finishes off the record. Brushes on snare, gently strolling along. Psychedelic waltz emitting from somewhere deep in your bones. “It’s not right to be here”, like a busted carousel running past midnight. Juxtaposition of the words “choked you” and “bother you” over the sweet strumming is a special kind of unnerving. It ends with the instrumental track breaking off its end, leaving only the ghost words “to the clean-up” to remain.
There are a thousand more words and feelings to give about “Lord Mayor Makes 1,000 Speeches”. They spill out of me from time to time, and I splash through the puddles they make on the floor. I am looking forward to clutching this one close, through the cold. Wrapped up in a blanket, shades drawn. Beverly Tender has its finger on the pulse of all of us searching for buckets to pour the light in. “The breeze here is different, it’s slow, and it’s warm, it’d choke you if it was any thicker.”