Friends, friends, this has been a heartbreaking couple of weeks for musicians who have left the Earth. It’s incredibly easy to get yourself down about the expanding in memoriam list. However frustrating it is that life has a tendency to end, it’s important to realize that the Starman and the Golden Eagle are currently riding through the cosmos together on their way to whatever the hell happens next (maybe nothing, maybe everything). For all of us still dwelling within the atmosphere, all we can do is thank Mr. Bowie, Mr. Frey, and the lesser known fallen artists for all of the joy they have brought to our lives, and for all of the sound waves they had managed to manipulate into beautiful music.
“Commencing countdown, engines on, check ignition, and may God’s love be with you…”
Now, onto more lively activity:
Today’s spotlight is on a young project from the mystical and far away land of Philadelphia PA that exemplifies the brutally honest nature of bedroom recording artists: Cyberbully Mom Club. CBMC is music so flexible that it has the subtle power to twist and contort its meaning and mood to fit your personal state of well being. Most of the tunes serve as a one-size-fits-all garment for whatever emotion calls for aural compatibility.
The album that interested me in the first place is called Outdoor Activities. It’s a very short album, only about 16 minutes long, but it’s enough to understand the music. It’s enough to feel like you’ve unwrapped yourself, just by listening. The usual formula for tracks off of this release is a single tracked acoustic guitar, mostly utilizing a capo to deal with the upper range of the instrument. And that’s it. All that comes next is the vocals: the purposefully messy, double tracked, reverberated, occasionally distorted melodies and lyrics, written by CBMC’s driving force Shari Heck, that serves as a sonic signature of the project. Heck’s voice is a combination of insanely sweet and harshly scratchy, and contains a certain consistency that proves to be as inviting as it is emotional.
There’s nothing too glamorous about any of it: no wild vocal runs, no Hell-thrashing, face-demolishing guitar solos (please, please click this link), and no over-production to obscure the stripped down reality of the world Heck is illustrating. There are multiple moments in the album when the two vocal tracks are on different notes, creating a clash of tones. While that’s not technically beautiful, this (possibly unintentional) practice reflects the imperfection of daily/human life that the songs are intended to complement. These songs are meant to conjure a really real reality for us listeners to relate to.
Probably the most enticing element of the work is the lyrics. The words that go along with the melodies are far from predictable poetry. They’re more of a monologue offered by a contemporary, anybody-type of character living in the modern world of a big and lonely city. Heck sings like people speak. The way she manipulates current/internet inspired language provides a sense of anonymity of the speaker, to the point where anyone who can relate could possibly be the narrator. This impact makes it all that much easier to for the lyrics to resonate.
Take “Drunk Txt Romance” off of Outdoor Activities. The lyrics begin with “I want to be the one you text first when you’re out of beer at 3 AM at some sh*tty house party in South Philly […] Bike home drunk with me on speaker… Just kidding, don’t do that.” That last line is what gets me. It shows that the speaker is self-conscious, nervous, and trying to act so cool for the one she admires. She’s trying to express her feelings while maintaining an “act like I don’t care” stance on the situation.
The newest release from CBMC is called ÒOR, released with Too Far Gone Records. This album is even shorter, and contains the same vibe achieved as Outdoor Activities. ÒOR is interesting because it presents a more crisp direction in the songwriting: The rhythms of the melodies are very tight, and there is a good amount of percussion implemented that may hint at a move toward a full band sound in the future. Here is my favorite song off of ÒOR – “Peach to a Peach.”
CBMB is not currently touring; Heck and her club are sticking around their stomping grounds in Philadelphia, trouncing the famously friendly basement scene that I miss more than anything else from that weird-o city.
I can see the Club hitting a huge creative strive with whatever the next release will be. I believe Heck is continuing to find out more about her recording process as she goes, and I’m very thrilled to see what comes next. With the bedroom as her studio, she will continue to make unique and exciting recordings that get me out of bed in the morning.
JASON McCUE | Desperado | KXSU Reporter