by Emmet Penney (@ChknNugtDeepSt8)
Self-deception interests me. Devotion interests me. Ethics interests me. Where these three meet makes for a sweet spot. Hence the draw of Horse Doctor’s latest self-titled album. Especially the stand out single, “Pious,” which details the inner life of a hypocritical, addict believer: “I’m still high / From last night / Things you said / Get off my couch / Traumatized? / Oh yeah right / There’s a place (reserved) / For your type.” I’ve had this verse lodged in my head for weeks, and the way it breaks into a cynical, resentful triumphalism (“God is great!!”) thrills me even after a dozen listens.
There’s an intimacy to this record I haven’t heard on an album in a long time. Most things that come out these days sound overly smooth or like they’ve had to strive for a roughed-up, “organic” sound. Horse Doctor hasn’t had to strive. The record’s warmth transported me to nights spent riding the Metra home in the rain when I was a teenager, a slim binder of CDs to feed my Discman. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt since, well, then. And yet I felt it in my Los Angeles apartment a decade and a half later because some seriously talented Canadians got together and, through some dark magic, conjured it up for me.
Another great cut from this album is “Hurt Someone (Close to You).” They slowly, gracefully plum the destructive depths of self-pity, one of the more interesting and universal feelings too many people toss off (likely because it hits too close to home):
Noose is tied around my feet
All the knives I have are dull
The ones supposed to know me best
Never seem to play the role
If they don’t understand the pain
That their love is causing you
Then you hurt the ones you love
Hurt somebody close to you
The self-defeatism, loneliness, and lashing-out-due-to-impotence maps on to much of our extremely online life, I’d argue. Especially those driven to large and small acts of violence in part because of the famine of intimacy that starves their inner lives. It’s a psychologically rich track and expertly arranged.
I put album away for a couple weeks after putting it on heavy rotation. When I came back, it was better than I remember. When’s the last time that happened to you?