Thanks for Coming ups the electricity but loses none of the intimacy.
Despite his popularity, I never really listened to Drake on purpose before hearing Rachel Brown’s cover of “Jungle.” I wouldn’t have guessed it was his song if “Drakechel,” as they call themselves when playing Drake songs, hadn’t told us so after seeing it played live with their band, Thanks for Coming. “Rock me real slowly / I’m just like a baby," he/they sing, and these could easily be lines from artists that get pegged as “sadgirls” (so maybe we should retire the term). Following a run of 37 collections of songs, mostly self-released, the 19-year-old New-York-via-Chicago musician has put together a band, adding Lindsey Sherman’s bass and Nate Amos’s drums to their own guitar and vocals; the trio released their debut full-length, Welcome to the Post-Dadcore Revolution, on Grandpa Bay Records in August.
The album marks Thanks for Coming’s development from a solo bedroom pop project into something that ups the electricity while losing none of Brown’s trademark confessional intimacy. One of its songs is titled “u r not sick, yr electric”, but that assurance is undermined by a final line about “running out of pills to make you happy.” But then, who’s to say sickness and electricity don’t go hand in hand? The songs are built on buzzing, minimalist chord progressions reminiscent of songs like Mitski’s “I Don’t Smoke.” Also like Mitski, Brown writes lyrics with simple, accessible refrains, but closer listening reveals nuance and sophistication. The second track, “good person,” revolves around a universal question: “Am I a good person?” Brown repeats, as though overwhelmed by moral worry. It’s not all that original, but let it reel you in and you’ll be rewarded beautifully. The chorus’ following line, “Am I good at being a thing?”, points to another important question: What does it even mean to be good as a person? Is it the same thing as being good as an object? Brown touches on physics and philosophy, always tying the theoretical back to the personal: “The space-time continuum is a prison for my body / I believe in chaos more than I believe in anything.” Poetic mystery springs out of existential exhaustion: “The birds are always singing the same fucking songs / And I hear all the trees whisper rumors to the lawn.” The conceptual complexity through which Brown expresses their self-doubt and fear of living is beautifully unique to Welcome.
From the vantage point of youth, Brown looks toward mortality: on “regarding my ultimate demise,” they run through a series of conditional speculations before landing on the real, singing, “If I were dirt, I am dirt, I am filth, I am earth / If I were sin, I am sin, but I’m not sorry, I’m just human.” “i buried all of my trash at the river” is a sped-up tune that shows Brown’s versatility and also explores the ashes-to-ashes theme with more than a dash of self-deprecation: “Everything I’ve ever owned is really trash / Everything I’ve ever owned is by the river / I don’t think I’ve got the spine to take it back.” Much like Florist’s excellent debut LP, The Birds Outside Sang, Thanks For Coming's record shares a concern with the body as traitor to the mind. Return to “u r not sick, yr electric” for illustration: “I’d give anything to be in another body / One that I can trust and won’t bleed,” sings Brown devastatingly. Meanwhile, the Florist record’s climax comes in its title track with the plaintive question, “Wasn’t the joke on me when I started to bleed?” Welcome to the Post-Dadcore Revolution’s penultimate track sums up its central tension. “I’ll believe you when you tell me we’re just a simulation” is its opening line; but “I won’t believe you when you tell me we’re not real,” followed by a spiraling decrescendo of guitar fuzz. Intellectualize all you want; we’re still people. In Brown’s words again: “I will never be a machine / As I might have been without a heart.”
Listen to Thanks For Coming on bandcamp.
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Eileen Marshall spends 21% of her time in a library in a museum in Chicago. She's prone to feeling, obsessing, and tweeting. Sometimes she tries to write beyond 140 characters.