Saturday, February 11, 2006

(I Was Drunk at the) Pulpit, by Palace Brothers

I bought Will Oldham's first Palace Brothers LP, There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You (Drag City, 1993), mainly because I had heard that Slint played as his back-up band for this project. I was expecting something like their Spiderland and instead found these drunken, repetitive verses, especially on this song, whose single guitar note gets played raggedly over & over under Oldham's near-whining voice ("In the whiskey-induced, holy unending night...").

I listened to the album maybe twice when I bought it in NYC in 1996 and decided it was of no interest. It was only two years ago I picked it out of my CD rack and began to enjoy its sublime repetitions, playing it often. The melancholy slowness coincided with certain winter afternoons here in Boston, looking at failure and repetition, in verse or living. I still don't know all of Oldham's work, but this and a handful of his other albums seem like perfect-bound weirdness to me. I think I also read this record as a coda to Slint's brief career, an epilogue made for mourning tongues.

1993 was an important year for me and it surprises me now to think I missed this album when it first came out. I can't help but remember Walter Benjamin's Angel of History when listening to this and a few other albums from that "era" I want to register in a personal (and admittedly romanticized) narrative, where self and history momentarily coincide. But it's precisely the ignored and irrelevant corners of history I hear in this song, mid-way through the album. All it takes is a guitar and voice, maybe what a country-folk rap might sound like, from an empty pulpit. So, the following couplets are my recollection of an epoch I want to acknowledge as distinct and unrepeatable, somewhere between 1990-1995:

"Well, I sucked down a couple and God shone within
And I saw where I'd been was a palace of sin"


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