opinion byJESSE NEE-VOGELMAN
There exists an alternate universe not so different from ours in which Spencer Krug spends his days on a street soapbox believing he’s Jesus. Not in the fun, ridiculous, egocentric manner of Kanye, but the sad, painful, egocentric manner of a man suffering to bring us art. Or, maybe Krug’s already there; titling the second track “Everyone is Noah, Everyone is the Ark” puts the gaze on God, and “I’m a lamb! I’m a lamb! I’m a lamb!” really leaves nothing to the imagination. Hell, even the album art makes him look like he’s about to die for our sins.
Of course, Krug, under the guise of Moonface, has plenty of his own sins to account for, crowning himself a “barbarian” right on the album’s opener. It’s a strong beginning — perhaps the best song on the album — but bleak, pulsing with a bare piano that sounds halfway between a movie soundtrack and some sort of cerebral game show theme. Unfortunately, it spirals down from there, both musically and emotionally, until halfway through the album Krug’s spending all night “doing blow, playing chess by [himself].”
The music itself isn’t bad. There aren’t a ton of albums out there like this. If someone’s going acoustic, they’ll usually pick up a guitar and plagiarize their more interesting, electronic selves. Alone with the piano, Krug feels more raw and immediate than other ivory-stroking singer-songwriters. Parts of this album make me feel as if I just opened the door to Krug’s bedroom and found him naked and masturbating. That’s what this album is: indulgent, but human. When his voice cracks yelling that “everyone is Noah,” I think he really believes it and wants to communicate something important. But, for the life of me, I have no idea what it is.
Note the particularly frustrating “Barbarian II,” on which Krug — completely ignoring lemmings — refers to himself as “one of the few animals that’s self destructive.” Beyond the lyrics’ own inherent hollowness, it points towards a different and more severe problem: Krug loves metaphors. On Julia With The Blue Jeans On he wears enough zoological hats to supply a king’s menagerie: alternatively there’s the “frog licking the inside of [his] chest,” the “crow that keeps banging against the glass,” and did I mention the Lamb! Lamb! Lamb!? Krug may contain multitudes, but at some point he can’t be all these things at once.
This penchant for analogy and grand statements lead to a lot of uneven songs. While the beginning of "Noah" deserves it’s own personal cleansing flood, the end is beautiful, strong, clear, and devoid of distracting lyrical contortions, finally allowing the piano and his distinct off-kilter voice to shine. “Love the house you’re in” starts strong, but halfway through falls into Krug’s typical melancholic, allegorical babble. Without exception, the albums best moments come when he eschews figurative language for regular, old-fashioned honesty. Take the end of “November 2011” where he sings: “Baby we both know we are both crazy/ and you can stay as long as you would like to stay.” And, it is with this Krug that I want to stay. Unfortunately, I have to move on to “Dreamy Summer” where he dirties a nice song with “all seeing deities” and “turning water into wine.”
I’m reminded of a crying baby, and I mean that in as positive a way as that can come across. There’s a lot of noise and emotion and potential; I’m just not sure what it means. It’s purposefully grandiose and obtuse, like Duchamp-esque word-art, in which Krug turns lyrical urinals upside down, calls them a song, and waits for us all to figure it out.
The thing is, it’s not even that I want Krug to do something so different. This isn’t an album that makes me want to tell him to go back to Wolf Parade or Sunset Rubdown or Frog Eyes — all places where he made good music. No, I’m interested in this Moonface iteration of Spencer: alone and vulnerable. I just think he needs another take. He’s pared down the music, now lets see if he can pare down the metaphor. There are moments on Julia where he succeeds in creating the important and honest music he wants to make. Of course, when you’re using a shotgun, you’re bound to hit something. [B-]