what do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?
there are quite a few albums in the collection for which i cannot recall the trigger for acquisition. the closest i can get with this album is connecting it to what was happening in 2006 when it was released. i had read about his work, and saw/heard him referenced on the cat power release of willie deadwilder. the song chinese translation somehow made it into my consciousness when i was indeed recovering from a broken heart. and at the time, it was fairly popular amongst certain circles. people talked about m ward as though he were a doyen of indie. to that end, i suspect i was quite resistant.
i really appreciate the general sensibilities of surf and soul rock across its expanse. a great self-contained example is right in the head. some of the orchestral elements work well within individual songs, which is to say they’re not out of place, but they happen to not be part of the best songs.
the best are the quieter more thoughtful songs, that are also more first-person. aside from the cover of daniel johnston’s to go home (which is excellent, with neko case), the next is the title track, post war. the organ reverberates warmth through otherwise simple melody and somewhat shuffling drums. you get to hear some little gems when you concentrate on it.
but there’s no doubt about the quality of chinese translation. it unsurprisingly carries some of the benefits of the collaboration with jim james from my morning jacket – including an uncanny likeness to their own more pensive song, golden. maybe it’s a little unfair as a conclusion, but it’s also like being on a steam train. it’s obvious, but i don’t know what purpose that might serve. regardless, it provides a fabulous energy.
it’s followed by what i think might be the best song on here, eyes on the prize. as relaxed as it sounds, it is powerful content and still manages some very laidback surf guitar. it’s the signifier that the album is great in very understated terms. neptune’s net is the core surf song though – from start to finish, including the title. and while not original in the sense that hundreds of bands across time and space have toyed with the aesthetic, it was (and still is) genuinely unique in modern rock and pop music.
after the almost joy and abandon of most of the tracks, the last three slow down the pace and traverse the soul territory. there’s a moment that stops you in your tracks, which happens to be the very end. when the sound of the gorgeously quiet tail end of the final song, afterword/rag ceases, you have to cock your head and ask, “is that it?” really, you knew it couldn’t be anything else. that’s how well it breathes its last breaths.
i have often wondered how albums age. sometimes a set of sounds and songs mean a lot, hit a nerve, at one point in time. maybe they have a ripple effect for a few years or one great song, but then sound out of kilter with everything else and must, in some ways, be cast into history. i thought this might have been the case with post war when i listened to it back then. but it has aged much better than i expected. it maintains its very specific identity, not to be confused with anything else, and still offers so much almost ten years later.
wouldn’t every musician wish it were so?