Chris Garneau Music for Tourists

[Absolutely Kosher; 2007]

Rating: 1/5

Styles: singer-songwriter, melancholy/depression
Others: Damien Rice, Eels, Nick Drake

I had to turn Chris Garneau’s Music for Tourists up awfully loud just to get myself to pay attention to it. Trouble was, I then had Music for Tourists turned up awfully loud, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Without trying to get into an argument about gender roles, Garneau isn’t exactly writing music for steadfastly hetero dudes…and I’m not even particularly straight.

To explain: Garneau winds his way through Music for Tourists’ thirteen songs in an androgynous half-whisper, half-sob. With the exception of “Relief,” which is a quite lovely mid-tempo piano ballad, the record is unrelentingly mournful, all painted in watercolors with Garneau’s piano leading the way. A melancholic cello moans away in the background. You get the picture. Along the way, Garneau also proffers a de-fanged take on Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” that I really could have done without.

I don’t like Damien Rice, so I’ll skip comparing him to Garneau, but I’d like to compare Music for Tourists to another record steeped in sadness: Eels’ 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues, released after a tremendous amount of personal tragedy befell band leader E. Based on subject matter alone, Electro-Shock Blues could easily have mirrored the plodding melodrama of Music for Tourists, but it didn’t. Sure, there were a few depressing piano dirges, but sprinkled among them were the kinetic “Cancer for the Cure,” the poppy “Last Stop: This Town,” and the shimmery “The Medication is Wearing Off.” With the exception of “Relief” (titled appropriately enough), there’s no respite here, and thus: no thanks.

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