Pearly Gate Music debut in review
by juli boggs
“When you turned you friends into lovers and your lovers they are all gone” things can only go downhill, USUALLY. This is how Pearly Gate Music’s debut album opens with “Golden Funeral”, so I’m thinking, screw it, this is going to be a downer. However, if you listen just as far as the second track, you will realize that this Seattle group’s foray is really a pleasantly thoughtful and modestly upbeat creation.
Pearly Gate consists primarily of Zach Tillman (the younger brother of Fleet Foxes cum solo rapper [joke] J. Tillman) one must wonder what mother and father Tillman do all day besides raise rock stars. I’m betting they have a great garden. They may also be church going people, which would account for the indulgence in that old-time revival sound that rings so strong throughout the album. A lot of NW bands have been sounding this way these days; let’s call it flannel-folk that has all the boys scorning their beard trimmers. It’s like if John Steinbeck were a fashion statement, and you turned that look into a sound and married it to something a little more urgent; Neil Young really did all this already, but he was so uptight, right? And so we have this whole movement of musicians attempting to recreate Laurel Canyon 1960-soemthing, minus that short time period where Charlie Manson was hanging around pre LA blitz.
The images are all there: railcars, rivers, gossamer hair, daddy (alternately referred to as “father”), home, girls, Jesus – not the Jesus who mostly fished and climbed mountains, but a more edgy Jesus taking his place as the coolest guy you know on “Oh, What A Time!” where Tillman describes taking Jesus out to a show and then for a few drinks. At the end of the night, they enjoy a nice walk back to his apartment,which is great, until Jesus leans in for a kiss “and I say ‘God, I don’t think I can do this’”. Normally pretty awkward, but as the Bible clearly says, Jesus is so cool he plays it off super well, so it’s not even awkward the next day when they go to meet up for foosball.
The album pace is meandering and natural, like a river, or a man who really wants to be a river, as he describes (facetiously I presume) on the track “I Was A River.” It does pick up for a moment there on “Gossamer Hair”, but it’s nothing compared with the fake-out punk rock track “Bad Nostalgia” showcasing yet more swooning vocal harmonies and subdued bongo action (hot!). As Tillman describes the many bad decisions he’s made throughout his life he says (or at least I think he may be saying, which is what really counts) that he will “never touch that shit again”, which, if that is indeed what he’s asserting, I applaud. If you come to a point in your life where you’ve been on a bad downward trajectory due to poor choices of girlfriends or dead-end jobs to support your hard drug habits, you should by all means take a step back and say, “you know, I’m never going to touch that shit again.” Dan Savage can and will back me up here.
The 10-song short album ends on “Rejoice”, another fake out title for what reveals itself to be a very sparse and melancholic track. It’s also the longest song on the album, presumably because you can’t just mention someone like the “Dream King” and keep it under four minutes. SPOILER ALERT: as it turns out, the Dream King was sleeping beyond the black hole so he poisoned his cup (you may remember this move from Tenacious D’s “City Hall”). Anyway the Dream King is dead and the veil has been lifted, which may explain why I’ve been waking up drooling and can’t remember how I got to wherever it was I’d apparently passed out. That’s just one of many theories, but most importantly it’s Zach Tillman’s truth and final message for what is a commendable debut album that will hold its own among a legendary roster of fellow Barsuk Records talents.
Check out some Pearly Gate Music below or via their artist site at Barsuk Records.