Thalia Zedek Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness

[Thrill Jockey; 2004]

Styles: indie rock, neo-blues
Others: The Dirty Three, Exile on Mainstreet-era Rolling Stones, GY!BE

A watershed moment in my life occurred when I received my first Come album. I was 16 and I really didn't "get" much about any music whatsoever. I knew I liked Dinosaur Jr, but I didn't know why. Angry, as every 16-year-old is, I would drive on dirt roads in my shitty 1972 Ford Galaxy 500, listening to my headphones turned all the way up, and I would think about what life was like outside of North Dakota. For whatever reason the music of Come, and in particular Thalia Zedek's voice, hit me like a ton of bricks: a pit in my stomach that, although I didn't know at the time, was a physical reaction to the emotional tone of the record. I was a different guy from that point on.

Here, ten years later, I'm sitting in my shitty car (1984 Chevy Cavalier), still a bit angry, and still wishing I was somewhere else. And, here, ten years later, Thalia Zedek has provided an intangible feeling for me to mull over for the next ten years.

Trust Not Those... begins with "Ship," a dirge-like song that would be instantly recognizable to any Come fan. What's different here is the foil for Thalia's snake-like guitar plucking. Whereas Chris Brokaw's acerbic guitar colored Zedek's melodies with minor key assertiveness, David Michael Curry's viola provides a sonic backdrop that tricks the listener into expecting a somber, sweet album. Halfway through the song the other shoe drops and BLAM -- drums, guitar, the swirling viola, and Thalia's distinctive voice (think Patti Smith or Carla Buzolich) increase the intensity tenfold. What's great about nearly every song on this album isn't the dynamic between 'loud' and 'quiet', but rather the dynamic displayed in the distance between the notes. Tempos and intensity shift seemingly at will, yet none of these shifts seem arbitrary. Whereas Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to whom Thalia is not often compared, insists on stomping on the distortion pedal, Thalia simply PLAYS HARDER. Recently I was lucky enough to see her live and it's a true thing of beauty to watch a band lock into place as eloquently as Thalia's, relying on nothing but their instruments -- i.e. no pedals, no boxes, nothing fancy.

Despite the strength of the actual songwriting (and clearly this is Thalia's greatest collection of songs in many years), the secret weapon of this record is drummer Daniel Coughlin. His sense of timing is akin to the Dirty Three's Jim White in that he plays as much against the music as he does for it. Live, this is ever-apparent: brushes are turned into incredibly noisy pieces of equipment in his hands. A true force.

What surprises me most about Trust Not in Those... is the willingness on Thalia's behalf not to retread much of her past work. Here we have an artist who's been making music for nearly 25 years and this album sounds fresh and new. This album is, by far, the best record I've heard this year.

1. Ship
2. Sailor
3. Since Then
4. Angels
5. Bus Stop
6. Brother
7. Bone
8. Island Song
9. Virginia
10. Hell is in Hello

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