Rivulets We’re Fucked

[Important; 2011]

Styles: bore-core
Others: Low, Codeine, Nick Drake

Nathan Amundson’s latest album as Rivulets seems like it’s intended to be his strongest and most revealing statement to date. Gone is the rogue’s gallery of slowcore personalities featured on his earlier albums; he’s settled into the familiar confines of the Sacred Heart Music Center — where he recorded 2003’s Debridement — and the self-insisting title, at the very least, sounds confident. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing about this album that sounds confident. Most of We’re Fucked is an insipid, boring slog through the mind of a musician who can’t get a chip off his shoulder long enough to make something worth listening to.

Amundson clarifies the meaning of the album title in the press release: “It reflects the feeling and atmosphere of the songs in some ways but probably has more to do with my own frustration with the world — with people and politics and the lack of any meaningful or lasting change. And just being sick of nobody out there saying anything at all. Just this completely vapid cultural/musical landscape.” Indeed, for a musician who depends on the beneficence of the good people of Minnesota — Amundson received a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund in 2010 — he’s created something awfully fatalistic. Sure, it can be tough to be a musician; you have artistic demons to exorcise and your integrity to protect. And heaven forfend we speak in such rude terms as return on investment. But We’re Fucked succeeds at nothing so much as affirming the simplistic sentiments of conservatives that people on the dole get lazy. We’re Fucked is a lazy album.

The faster numbers — ‘faster’ being extremely relative — like “The Road” and “Sheep Among Wolves” resemble Red House Painters. But unlike RHP’s charmingly offhand writing, Amundson’s comes off as listless and ineffectual. “Sheep Among Wolves” is a folky number that, again, seems weirdly combative of his surroundings and circumstances; he’s not just recording in a church, it’s a church that’s been decommissioned into a venue, on a public budget. “All you fucking wolves,” he sneers, with a lame, solipsistic impotence, as if he’s searching for a target for his antipathy.

“I Am” is compelling for its crepuscular atmosphere and haiku-like lyrics — “I am coffee and cigarettes/ And whiskey and sleeplessness,” that’s it. Here, Amundson finds the clarity of message that minimalist writing requires. Elsewhere, he falls flat, like on “Everybody’s On the Run” — “When you fall from that plane/ Over frozen lakes/ Who will look at the sun/ Everybody’s on the run.” On one hand, it’s a clever, yawning statement about modern distractions, where they let us down and what they keep us from seeing. On the other hand, it’s this kind of unsympathetic writing that makes We’re Fucked such a tedious listen. Perhaps it’s not about Nathan or the distracted crowd on the run, but what the Orthodox call charmolypi — a hopeful sorrow for the fall itself. As it is, the music is rather like the secularized cathedral in which it was recorded: detached from the ancient rituals of empathy and affirmation.

Links: Rivulets - Important

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