I’ve always enjoyed albums that try to say everything all at once. I’m never sure if an artist or band does this on purpose. I’m not sure if anyone could. Perhaps that is what makes this sort of thing good. To reveal a series of grievances—anger, doubt, and confusion—wrap it together in ever growing booze soaked grief, you can get something bigger. Something unexpected. It isn’t necessarily something complete, or a finished story. It becomes a feeling, a mood. The sort of thing that can’t quite be said out loud, because you aren’t entirely sure what it is. But you know that something is horribly wrong, even if you don’t know what to do about it.
The debut album from Young Marshall falls into this category. It is a strangely clever album, whose title, Tell Them I Said Something, is equally clever, and wonderfully passive aggressive. Even in a song such as the opener “Jukebox”, which from what I gather is about being angry at someone who plays shitty music on a jukebox, can catch you off guard.
At first glance the song can seem pointless, even dumb, until the singer declares amidst heavy, stuttering guitar riffs, “we all speak in philosophy when we are drunk.” What proceeds is a mixture between melody driven punk rock (“Matchbooks”, “Mud City”), and heavier circa 1980/early 90’s Chicago punk rock (“Anti-Reason”, “Ah Ha Ha Ha”).
And in a song like “Thinking of a Song”, which begins with the wonderful line, “Lost my voice / hadn’t used it for so long / lost my mind the same way,” you get the feeling that there is a hint of folk music behind these songs, or other such genres that enjoy to tell a damn good story.
It is hard to explain why I like this album so much. Let’s not be confused. This is not a perfectly polished album. At times it sounds a bit amateurish. Though, to compare it with something I have always been fond of, it is like taking a Tennessee Williams play over one by Arthur Miller. Sure, a comparison between two literary juggernauts may seem like an odd one in a review about a punk rock album.
Yet, alas, this album ends with a rather interesting recording of William Faulkner delivering his Nobel prize winning speech. So to seize the opportunity let me say that Tennessee Williams was a man who always took risks in his work, while Arthur Miller was the more polished and calculated playwright. But for this reason, when Tennessee Williams was on, his work contained a greater, and more personal emotional depth. In a sense, his great works contained a greater honesty solely because his writing was more raw than Miller’s could ever be. In the same sense, this album is more honest than anything that will ever be played on mainstream radio. And if there is a God in heaven who listens to rock-n-roll, there will be ever more albums like this one.
Tell Them I Said Something is available digitally via bandcamp and as a limited edition 7″ record for only $8.