the essay like nephew are most awesome.
their singer is a gentle giant, about six and a half feet tall, with a scarecrow’s mop of blonde hair. when — almost two years ago — i saw their gig, he was pressing on all who would listen the importance of reading ‘the unbearable lightness of being’. ’twas a gig that ranks among my favourite live perfomances ever, thanks to the multitude of different faces who appeared onstage at various points wielding instruments; thanks to the violin bow that was briefly used to play bass guitar; thanks to the sheer energy of the minute-long song that began with a beer bottle being hit three times with a drumstick. «i don’t believe in love, i believe i bluetooth!»
it is called ‘burrows’, which admittedly does not immediately strike one as a particularly inspired title. the word also appears in the album’s closing song, ‘barnyards, burrows, bed’– a song to which i initially took a dislike, drowned as it is in a reverberating distortion which reminds me of the black rebel motorcycle club, a band i once found in the hmv bargain bin (the album was cheap but it wasn’t a bargain). however, after multiple attempts to decipher the song’s lyrics, i was won over: the final command to «blast off till the belly aches» is typically pleasing. it is this irresistible lexicographical exuberance for which i love the essay like nephew. it is this all-embracing literary joy which is evident in their blog‘s link to urbandictionary’s definition of ‘burrows’ — for what it’s worth, the most popular definition is ‘to be lazy, lame, or without purpose’; the second is ’60s slang to describe a husband or boyfriend’ — and in their setting to music sylvia plath’s poem ‘sheep in fog’.
that particular song demonstrates admirably their skill in using their undeniable musicianship to atmospheric effect — although what i find most interesting is that the one line of plath’s poem that is left out reads «a flower left out». whatever that might mean, sylvia plath seems an appropriate influence to give tribute, for essay like nephew’s recurring theme is undeniably one of romance interwoven with (more or less explicit) suicidal tendencies. this is not to deny that such a theme underlies all of rock’n’roll — and indeed, all songwriting — history, but simply to affirm that essay like nephew are clearly part of this tradition, whether they be singing that «there’s freedom when you cut off your head», as they do in the opening song ‘afternoon’; or whether they are drowning in a shark-infested sea, as in their most glorious music video for the imaginatively named sharks. apparently titles are not a strong point.
the notable exception being the band’s decidedly un-essay-like name itself, the origin of which is apparently known not even to the band members’ nearest and dearest.
the highlight of the album is ‘sound of mind’, a song which through its instrumentation alone conjures up the sensation of «waking in the afternoon sunset… bleary-eyed» of which it speaks. yet behind its politely-plucked guitaring lies a perceptive portrait of the styles of life offered to today’s university graduate: the sensible choice of a career in the city, «sound of mind [but] cold of heart», where one can only «dream of dreams»; or the courageous choice to live your dreams, to not «gladly pay the price of fear» — which for the essay like nephew means to take the leap and play the rock’n’roll game, staying up late into the early hours of morning playing/writing/making music, waking up as «the city loosens its neck-tie».
i sincerely hope they don’t make the sensible choice. for, as the urbandictionary might put it, the essay like nephew are no burrows.