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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Coma Cinema - Blue Suicide: B+

Well, it’s been two days since summer unofficial started, so how’s it been going so far? Feeling excited? Hopeful? Well fuck that! Because the reviews are in and Coma Cinema’s third album is going to depress the living shit out of you! Good weather? Fuck it! Good friends? Fuck it! Summer love? Fuck it, man! Don’t you know that the only permanent thing about true love is the pain you feel when it goes? I hope you weren’t planning on leaving your weeping bunker for the next three months, because your sorrows are ripe for the wallowing and Coma Cinema’s got the Kleenex!

But in all seriousness folks, Blue Suicide, the third album by one-man-band Coma Cinema, has the potential to really get to you. It’s one of those records that is so consistently morbid, you’d have to laugh it off to keep yourself from shrinking into a fetal position. The album was made in a nomadic way; main man Matt Cothran scrounged around towns in South Carolina for abandoned musical equipment so he could intermittently record his two-minute shame spirals, so you can imagine how downtrodden the guy was feeling throughout the album’s making. Not only is this ragtag setup conveyed in Cothran’s lyrics, but in Blue Suicide’s production, which seems to shirk wide ambitions for tape fuzz and Elliot Smith-like acoustics.

However, you may be surprised to find that, despite its back-story, Blue Suicide is remarkably cohesive. True, the double-time drums of first track “Business As Usual” sound like pure shit, but it’s not like there are inconsistent moments of high fidelity juxtaposed with moments of low, something I had assumed upon entering the album. Most likely as a result of the restrictions on the album’s making, the lengths of Blue Suicide’s tracks are quite short (only about half exceed the two minute mark). However, it doesn’t feel like Cothran’s just recording single ideas onto analogue tape, which is what the album’s making would imply. Instead, each track of Blue Suicide is complete and has a distinct identity, a great testament to Cothran’s ability to write full songs despite his limitations.

And then there’s Cothran’s crushing pessimism. The album that first comes to mind when listening to Blue Suicide is Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor. However, instead of having some ballast like a group chant of “You’ll always be a loser,” Cothran refuses to stop obsessing over death, ultimately concluding that living makes him feel like a whore. So the safety net of Blue Suicide isn’t so much missing as it is made out of barbed wire.

Cothran’s diatribes against himself are worded cleverly, so rarely do they come off as self-pity although that is essentially what they are. “I am willing to eat what the vultures will not,” he informs on “Greater Vultures”, and his acoustic guitar sounds so frail and his voice so defeated it’s borderline transcendent early into the album. When I listen to Blue Suicide I end up chuckling at how colorful Cothran’s cynicism can get, but the album’s worth listening to if only to hear a well-executed expression of an emotional extreme.

So if Cothran was hoping to make a really miserable record, then slap a blue ribbon on Blue Suicide, because it’s a winner. However, I would still recommend allowing the album to ruin the flow of at least one of your days while you’re trying on bathing suits and setting up the slip-n-slide. Blue Suicide is very well made, regardless of its circumstances. It gives hints of a Coma Cinema that can be truly transformative through that oft-abused sentiment of grief. But, wait a minute. Is that a violin I hear in the title track just before the album ends? Well then, perhaps things are looking up.


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